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Mirror Mirror
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Shae Stormchild
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Joined: 13 Feb 2015
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 11:46 am    Post subject: Mirror Mirror Reply with quote

Events continued from What Was Missing

S--

You probably think this letter is a ruse. I bet you won't even open it at first. You've let your guard down, I can tell.

Did you think you could be rid of me so easily?

We aren't done, my Wind Demon. It's only a matter of time. Do you think you can protect them all?

I'll be watching you.

--M



Listen.

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I'll be watching you

Oh can't you see
You belong to me
My poor heart aches
With every step you take

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I'll be watching you
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Shae Stormchild
Old Wyrm
Old Wyrm


Joined: 13 Feb 2015
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 4:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Patient Anger
After Beltane, The Small Hours, April 30th, 2017

"I don't think I got a chance to ask. Is everything back to the way it was with your body? Everything in the proper place? No extra kidneys?" Cianan had arrived late to the Beltane festivities, only to steal the former May Queen away for the walk back to town.

"Seems so." In the wee hours after the distraction of the Beltane festivities had ended, many of the shops were still open to cater to the late night revelers. For Shae and the Drow, food was their aim.

"Did you get all the extras back too? The tattoos in the right place? The piercings?" They'd reach a diner, and C'd open the door for Shae. At least there weren't lots of kids after a prom.

"Not all the piercings, no. I think my body forgot about them.” One hand reached up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear before she cast a mildly confused glance in his direction. “I didn't have any tattoos." The end of that reminder turned into a yawn as she stepped inside.

"We'll get you some new ones anytime you want, if you do." They'd get seated, probably pretty quick, flopping into a booth, Cianan would stretch his legs out. "So.. is it like a fresh new body, or just your old one reforming?"

"I think I'd like that." Fingers tugged an earlobe that only had one pierced hole. "It's...I guess it's the old one? I had many years where my mental image of myself was the same, so that was the one I envisioned. I didn't think to incorporate some of the more recent details. I just pictured myself as flesh and blood, threw my will in that direction, and hoped for the best." Shae slid into the seat but didn't lean back into the cushions. Instead she leaned forward where she could rest her arms on the table and make a study of her own hands.

"Well, with everything going on, and how we were getting smashed around in your whirlwind.. I can understand not wanting to take the time to go for all the details." He sighed, leaning back, and tapping at his menu. "In fact? I appreciate it a bit!" He stuck his tongue out at her, minus the piercings, though the tattoos were still there. He had a tendency to wag his jaw, and well, he was figuring on a windstorm of some sort. That's just who Shae was. "Now that you've gotten a bit of food, and a bit of dance, how are you feeling?" And more food to come!

"If you believe it, that was an improvement." She managed a smile for the flash of his tongue. "Thank you." She's probably a broken record with how many times she's said it. "Especially for, well, keeping Fox away for a bit." The other laminated menu was scraped in close so she could look at the pictures of the food. "Closer to normal." When the waitress came back over, Shae just pointed to the picture of the chocolate chip pancakes. "What about you? I know you've got your means to take care of yourself, but..."

He stretched his hand across the table, opening it up to her. He was going to part point out some pancakes as well! Not chocolate chips, though. It's bad.. Fox seemed to be a stress eater! So much food! "I mean. We're probably going to have to go in and re-pierce things. But, I'll do it on the house. It's not like you took 'em out.." Cianan shrugged his shoulders, "I am? I don't know. I was just more focused getting to you."

Shae reached over to squeeze the Drow's hand lightly. "You're sure?" She had to check. A brave face might have been the order of the day just minutes after, but she'd had nearly two weeks to regain her footing. "And you did them on the house last time. At least let me pay somehow." Forgive her if she's not used to those sort of gestures. "I mentioned it to Cris, but I wanted you to know. The fact that the two of you managed to look past your issues to help me, well, I'm genuinely humbled by that."

He squeezed her hand, and brushed his thumb across her knuckles. A firm squeeze, and not too tight. "Nah." He waved his hand towards Shae, "My treat again." He insisted! Cianan chuckled a bit, and rolled his shoulders, "I don't really have an issue with him, but he's gotten a bit.. testier since, well, he came back." He wasn't quite sure what it was. He was sure Cris didn't like him, but there was less whip crack rebuttals before, and usually they had more of a reason. "But for you, Shae? Yeah. I'd do that."

The only protest he got from her for the moment was a sigh. She'd think of something else, she told herself. Though she wasn't sure how the scale would be balanced. Instead of dwelling overlong on the 'might-have-been's of her existence in the caves, she reflected on Cianan's observations. "If I had to make a guess, I would say that he's not yet found his way out of the hole that experience left him in. And what happened to Salome just took his feet out from under him." She didn't address whatever was going on with Leena, that topic felt taboo. "It's not an excuse, but might be the reason." Her head turned to look out the window, seeing her reflection there on the inside of the glass instead. "I dislike the fact that these people have been making such a close observance of not only me but of you, and others I know. I don't know how, or what I should explain to the people they've looked into, but I feel like I should."

"...What happened to Salome?" Cianan blinked in confusion! "I think it was mentioned before, but Cris and I.. well, we don't really talk." He took a small breath, "Yeah.. I'm a bit unsettled by that too. I go out of my way to make myself harder to track. There are certain places I go.. but.. from those points, I should be vanishing." His room at the Inn, his various apartments, "Did Cris tell you what was in the notes? I didn't get a chance to see them. And, Lucy.. and others." He squeezed her hand again, softly, "We might have to start hunting. Find them.. purge their information."

The question catches her off-guard and it shows. Her expression moves quickly through surprise, faint irritation, and regret before settling into sorrow. "She..." Suddenly her mouth was a desert that had her reaching for the glass of water the waitress had left on the table. "I don't know the full details but...Salome..." The ice water felt like swallowing metal. "She's dead, Cianan."

That caught Cianan off guard as well, he seemed surprised by that, "I didn't know." A small exhale, and he squeezed Shae's hand a bit tighter. "Sorry. I didn't mean to.." That tone of voice after all that, he just frowned, looking out the window as well.

"Apparently it was some months ago." The exact date was unknown to her. She might have been secluding herself, or she might have already been trapped. It ate at her that she hadn't been there to help. "She was helping Glenn and Leena sort out some demonic force that was plaguing them. They succeeded but...at a cost."

"Demons always do have a cost." Cianan replied, glumly. "I'm sorry to hear that. I liked her." He could understand Cris being how he was, with all those hard shakes to his basic foundation, now. Not that he held any of it at all against Cris, Cianan was a terrible person, there was lots of bad things Cianan had done, and lots that he kept trying to make up for.

"I did too." Shae had grown more attached to the Warlock than she thought she would in so short a time of knowing her. The words are quiet, and she draws back with them. From the quiet, she dredges up the other matter of concern that lingered. "He didn't tell me what was in the notes, he couldn't read them. He burned them, except the one of Salome." Why Cris had done so? Perhaps a fear in the moment that they not be left where they could be used. "I will see how many names he remembers. The maps may give some clues."

"I can start stalking around, prowling. See who might be watching us." He was good at rooting out that sort of thing, planning alternate paths, planning roundabouts while playing to the expected, even if he'd gotten lazy this time around. It was time to re-strengthen the wards, and keep things a bit more firm. "Don't worry about that thing now." He drew Shae's hand up, and bit the knuckle, "You have enough on your plate with the recovery. That can be something for another time. We don't need to jump into a new mission, a new objective. We can breathe for a bit."

As if to agree with his point, she inhaled and exhaled with deliberate slowness. "I don't intend to sit on it for too long. The longer I wait the more chances they have to clean up." She took her hands back and rubbed at the knuckle he had bitten. It didn't work, but it was something to focus on. "I'm angry." The two words were said without display, without embellishment. No shaking fists or loud proclamations. Her anger was that potent sensation before the break of a storm. Calm and with terrible promise.

"Well. What do you want to do about it?" Cianan, moved his hand away to act as a shelf for his cheek, watching her. "I can start. You don't have to start just yet." Uncurling a finger to point at her, "You're not out of it. You're just getting all sorted out." There was a difference, "Besides. We have pancakes." Those were important things! A calm smile, and a soothing voice, at least he tried to make it soothing.

Her response was cold, hollow-point ammunition for her eventual plans. "I want to erase them from this place. It is mine, they do not belong here. That war belongs elsewhere." Not where it could reach yet more people she cared about. She would not be their stepping stone. Pancakes were a good distraction. The anger in her folded up behind her eyes, tucked itself away patiently. Shae was practical enough to not go on a tear of vengeance, not without her hands on the throat of the one that had wronged her.

"I understand. At least, as much as I am able." Similar things is why he didn't bring the under dark up here. It was just, too much. He didn't want to drag it here, he didn't want any of it to be here, that part gnawed at his stomach more than anything else. All that stress, all that fighting, everything he worked hard to fix, and failed to do. He nodded his head slowly, "We'll fix it. We'll figure it out." He promised.

A small sigh, and he leaned back to watch her, "Cliche saying. Don't let it consume you, blah, blah blah. You'll be a monster like the.. bleh." He couldn't even finish that one. He stuck his tongue out again in disgust for even saying part of it, happy when plates are put down in front of them.

"Of course we will." The curve of her lips had purpose to it. "I can't just ignore it though. You don't ignore your house catching fire. Besides," Shae said as she cut into the stack of semi-sweet speckled cakes, "I'm already a monster." It was so matter of fact, accepted. "They know it, or they wouldn't have been so interested in what they could produce from my corpse."

"You and me both, Shae. You and me both." On the monster bit. He waggled his eyebrow, and started pouring on some syrup, "You and me both." A little butter, because, why not? And he was digging in with his fork.
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Shae Stormchild
Old Wyrm
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Joined: 13 Feb 2015
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Jobs: Schoolteacher, Apothecary
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46300.58 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Embracing the Ironmonger, Part 1
Fin's Forge and Home, Sunset, May 3rd, 2017

There was still the faintest hint of chill to the air - Spring was slow to rouse itself from beneath the earth and stretch her fingers to the sky. However, that wasn't enough to stop Fin from working up a sweat and enjoy the cool touch to his face and neck.

He was on the roof of his building, a new iron fire escape making it much easier to access the flat space atop the forge. The sound of hammering echoed off the darkened shop fronts surrounding his own, the faint sound of far-off traffic providing a subtle background rhythm. Liath sprawled nearby but well out of the way of his work. She panted and listened, perking for certain sounds, sometimes even rising to inspect her territory from the lip of the roof.

The ruddy rays of the setting sun slanted long angles between buildings and over the street. Fin sat with his back to it, taking advantage before he had to turn on a lamp.

The sound of ringing metal led her down the street she hadn't seen in far too long. With many of the other shops closed it was a strange feeling. When she realized just what it reminded her of, her pace quickened considerably in the direction of his building. Then it was a matter of finding him. The sound of forging didn't seem dimmed by wall or door. It felt close and yet far. She peered in windows, but he wasn't in the ground floor that faced the street. Rounding the corner of the building, she searched for another entrance. It was then that she stumbled onto a metal structure climbing the rear of his home and shop.

It seemed as good an access point as any. Shae was alone as she climbed up the flights of stairs towards his roof. She wasn't disguising her approach, but unless the stairs were particularly noisy it wouldn't be impossible to lose the sound of it beneath the beat of hammer to anvil. Thankfully he had Liath to alert him to what he could not hear.

It was the thinner sound of a hammer hitting a nail that she heard bouncing clumsily along the sidewalks. Liath half-rose to a sitting position, whuffling loud enough for Fin to notice in between the swings of the hammer. Brows furrowed together as he swung his face in the same direction Liath was watching, the direction of the stairs that led up here.

Fin sat on the roof with long 2x4 beams stacked in front of and next to him. Four metal joist brackets were scattered around the wood, along with a small tool box. Fin was building a short but long raised deck which would serve as a little patio area.

Once Shae's head cleared the lip of the roof, Fin abandoned his frown for a look of surprise. After her absence, that was the last person he expected to show up here tonight, even with Crispin's forewarning of her presence in town. Brushing off his hands, Fin rose to his feet with a small smile. "Good eve, Shae. I had heard somethin' o' yer return."

She was thinner, but the weight was coming back. All it did at the moment was serve to make her look more fey with the way it sharpened the angles of her. She wore a peasant's blouse of cream embroidered with a gold thread patterning over soft black pants that ended tucked inside a pair of heeled boots. The other features of her weren't any different. The same gold eyes, the same back hair. The same color trapped in her skin.

"Hi Liath." She greeted the dog first, with a slight bend at her waist and a the voice one reserves for beloved animals and small children. Then she was moving closer, across the roof and towards his work space. It's a deliberate thing, and she's studying him as she approaches. As if the sight of him might lay bare how he was. "Hi Fin," she said when she was close enough for the words to pass quietly. There's some weight to the simple greeting. As if she never expected to be able to give it again.

Shadows haunted Fin's eyes but otherwise, his appearance was much like when she left - jeans and boots and a t-shirt with forgotten stains splashed erratically over the fabric. There was a hesitance to him that was new to her, every conversation tenuous these days.

Shae, too, carried a grave weight upon her shoulders and it stole the small turn of his mouth, drew his brows together as he took a step closer. Hands were shoved into the pockets of his jeans, consciously making sure he didn't touch her accidentally. Didn't want to startle her. Her tone struck a chord within him as something he recognized, a reminder of days from another life. It was on the tip of his tongue to ask what happened but he knew the answer would be too large to fit upon his meager roof.

"Would ye like to visit for a wee bit or are ye passin' by?"

Without the drumbeats of Beltane to bolster her, seeing a face such as his took effort. The shadows she saw in him saddened her. She knew where dwelled some of their ilk, but she suspected others were ones she hadn't yet heard of. The hesitance, too, was out of place for the formerly exuberant Scotsman. "Do I look so much a fright?" The question made pretenses at being light, to tease him gently for his glass house handling of her. As if he thought himself a stone.

"I came to visit. That is, if I'm still welcome?" One hand raised, unsure of its own trajectory. Its progression was a slow thing that reached towards chest. Permission asked silently with each inch, before she tried to touch him.

On the contrary - it was Fin who felt fragile, wary of others for the way they could affect his mood. Wary of the amount of energy it would take to seem invested in the interaction because his inner strength was on short supply.

"Ach, no, lass," offering a half-hearted smile and shake of his head. "Glad I am to see ye here. Alive." A few branches had been pruned from Fin's growth of chosen family and he wasn't so rich in friends that he would turn her away. "Aye, ye be welcome." He spoke quietly while Liath hovered to the side, staring at the both of them, tail swinging from side to side.

Blue eyes fixed upon her hand when she first extended it toward him. His chest swelled with a steadying breath but he didn't stop her. Waited until she touched him first to pull his hands from his pockets and fold her in a hug.

Folded in, she returned the gesture tightly. A tension had lived in her until that particular threshold had been crossed, and now it slowly bled from her. A small shudder escaped along her spine and the slip of her arms up and around his shoulders tightened. Even in the heeled footwear, she pushed herself onto the balls of her feet for the hug.

"There you are...you're real." Relief shifted into a warmer greeting. "It's good to see you," she breathed into his collar.

At first, his hold was loose, returning the gesture of not the sentiment behind it. He thawed some as she sagged into his embrace, relaxing his shoulders and tightening his hold on her.

"Some days, it be difficult to believe tha' anythin' be real. I wonder if this be a dream or if I be dead." Morose but there it was. He spoke this softly against her hair, one hand stroking slowly up and down her back in a soothing gesture that came naturally, without having to think about it. "Have ye been seein' things while ye've been away?"

Made hesitant by the initial lackluster hold, she almost doubted herself and let go, but in that moment where his grip tightened she was able to find some small measure of peace. "Yes," the woman said quietly, her breath warm, but shallow. "I have."

She was grateful for the gesture, and he would find that she mirrored it in the space of his back that she could reach. His question was passed back for him to answer. "What about you Fin? Is it seeing things, or something else? You feel alive to me, and of that I am very glad."

"Then 'haps it be true," he murmured under his breath before stepping back. "Why do we no' go down the stairs an' inside? I could make a cup o' tea for us." With a word, Liath was directed toward the staircase that lead back down to the ground. It didn't look like rain and the wood was treated so he didn't worry over it sitting out. Stooping to pick up his tools, they were carted back inside when he went.

Down on the ground, Fin opened the door for Liath and held it open for Shae, allowing her inside first before he followed. Tools were put aside and he headed straight for the stove to put on the kettle. "Crispin told me last nigh' tha' ye be back. How long?" How long had she been back before she had the strength to step outside and face people?

They likely weren't the sort of visions he was imagining. Still, she doesn't object to his suggestion to quit the roof in favor of his kitchen and a cup of tea. She gave him a hand collecting all the tools together. It hadn't escaped her that he hadn't really answered her question.

Shae stepped inside without hesitation and it really was thanks to Liath. The dog was relaxed and trusting, seeming just excited for there to be a person with new smells interacting with her person. "Did he?" She'd wondered how he had heard and didn't object to the source. "He and Cianan brought me back to town about three weeks ago." Cris and Cianan working together might well qualify for a sign of the apocalypse.

Liath was sticking close to Shae, sniffing her wherever her nose could reach. Including places that might cause Shae to shove her nose away.

Inside, Fin concentrates on the kettle, filling it with water and raising the temperature before it was set on the stove, to reduce boiling time. He could have heated the water in mugs himself but he wasn't in the mood to show off and the ritual of making tea was a comforting thing. "Wha' sort o' tea would ye like?" he asked over his shoulder.

"Brough' ye back? Where were ye, if ye do no' mind m'askin'?"

Shae was tolerant for the animal, eliminating a lot of the more intrusive nose pokes by simply crouching down to pet the wolfhound with both hands. A few words murmured to Liath under her breath, no doubt having to do with identifying the 'good girl' in the room.

At the question about the tea, she looked up but did not straighten. "Anything without cinnamon." It was an oddly specific prohibition, but she seemed adamant about it. "I find I can't tolerate the scent of it, these days."

That last question was one she had expected, and so the answer she gave wasn't as obscure as it might have been. "I wasn't wholly myself. I mean physically. I had lost to my nature. And...and I was being kept."

Liath used the height advantage to push into Shae, burrowing her large head against Shae's shoulder until the woman was in danger of being bowled over by the fully grown wolfhound. Lots of licks to any exposed skin, too.

There was no questioning the tea preference, unable to remember if it was something she'd disliked before or if it was a consequence of her disappearance. Either way, didn't really matter so much that Fin's curiosity was roused enough. Rather, there were greater things to learn.

Some dried leaves were pinched into mugs while he sped along the kettle, heating the water exponentially faster so that it was whistling within a few moments. "Kept?" he asked lightly, once again speaking over his shoulder. An invitation to elaborate if she chose but not so direct that it would be awkward to push it to the side.

The result became that Shae found herself seated on his kitchen floor, the curve of her back pressed against the cabinetry. She controlled the onslaught of tongue lashing by curling a hand gently over the bridge of the hound's nose, the fingers of her other hand passing soothingly between Liath's brows and back around the curve of her ears. Soft, praising sounds hummed wordless from her throat.

The whistle of the kettle, so soon after it had been put on, clearly surprised her. Her gaze assured her that the kettle wasn't itself an enchanted or some artifact of technology she was unfamiliar with. Had it been, she might have asked Fin where he'd procured it. Instead, she found herself studying his shoulders.

Silence lived between his question and her reply, a weighing. Of herself, of his state, of what things he'd before alluded to. "Prisoner." Elaboration granted for remembrance that his curiosity rivaled her own. "A cave system some ways north of here. Shackled by star iron." The last showed careful trust from the woman. He, a blacksmith, often worked with iron, but Shae had never visibly shown it to bother her in any way. On many worlds, iron was said to be a bane to any with Faerie blood. Sometimes a degree of truth was folded into the many myths of how to deter this or that creature. Sometimes it was wishful thinking to create a false sense of security. Reality, occasionally, was a bit more complicated.
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Shae Stormchild
Old Wyrm
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 9:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Embracing the Ironmonger, Part 2

During the silence that followed his question, Fin held a hand over the steaming mugs. Dark brown bloomed in the clear water, slowly unfolding and spreading until it replaced the clear water completely. By the time she responded, he'd already gotten out the honey, dosing each cup liberally. Finally, he turned to face her, only to find her on the floor, entertaining an eager wolfhound.

Fin chuffed a breath in the spirit of mirth before sending her toward her pad near the sofa. Holding the mugs carefully, the lanky Scot folded himself on the floor next to Shae, curling his back against the cabinet before setting her mug on the floor between their thighs. "Jasmine Green," he murmured, lips brushing the edge of his mug as he blew gently over the surface of the water.

"D'ye know wha' star iron be?" Fin hadn't heard of it before.

If she found anything odd about his decision to join her there on the floor, she certainly didn't show it. Down there, below the countertop, it was a different kitchen. The wolfhound relented at her master's command, and Shae smiled fondly after the retreating animal.

Tea was a fabulous target for her attention. Before she reached for the cup she was wiping her hands against her shirt to rid them of dog hair. "Thank you." It smelled lovely, and she would appreciate the honey. She let the tea cool as she responded to him. "Yes. It's iron that comes from falling stars. I believe another name for it is meteoric iron. A star streaks down, impacts the ground, and is harvested, yes?"

Fin had never sat in this particular spot before and the vantage was different, yet familiar. Merely a different perspective on something he saw every day.

Brows rose slightly to hear about iron from the stars. "I ha' ne'er heard o' such but if it were to happen anywhere, 'twould be this place." A mirthless chuckle caused ripples over the surface of his tea. "Did ye know them?"

"I'm given to understand it happens just about anywhere with shooting stars in the sky." Though she considers that maybe there were some worlds where they didn't exist. Worlds without craters or meteors. She picked up her tea as she pondered, and then sipped it as a small excuse to delay her response.

"Yes and no. The one who lured me I had never met. The ilk he was associating with, however, were disturbingly familiar." The tea became refuge, half gone before she knew it. "That said, he knew of me. Moreso, perhaps, than I did."

It was more the correlation between shooting stars and a meteor that made craters that Fin was missing, ignorant of star metal or how it was made. However, rather than belabor the point, he merely nodded over his tea.

Given the poignant empathy that welled for her unfortunate circumstances, it was hard for Fin not to ply her with questions. Because he was sensitive to the potential of Shae's mindset, the Scot didn't want to overwhelm her. Frowning to himself, Fin chewed the inside of his cheek a moment. "If ye do no' want to speak on it, I will no' press ye, lass. I know tha'...speakin' of it can bring it back."

As he chewed over what to say to her, Shae found the bottom of her cup. The warmth had settled in her stomach and was soothing. What he settles on has her sighing. Not at him, but at herself.

"If there is something I do not wish to answer, I will let you know. I... do and don't want to speak on it. Much in the way drawing poison is often unpleasant, even if it is necessary. And, to be frank, there is another matter I would speak with you about that might be considered equally unpleasant."

The ambivalence of speaking about his past was something with which Fin struggled often. "When'er ye be ready, if ye need someone to listen, I will be here. I promise ye tha'." The Scot's gaze rested upon his dog while he spoke, abstractly dissecting the shadowing under her chin, the way the light hit the hound's dark amber eyes. Trying to avoid his own set of flashbacks.

One brow arched, cutting his gaze to the side until he could see her face. "Aye? Wha' are ye wantin' to speak on?"

Licking her lips, Shae set the empty vessel down carefully on the floor. "Salome." She started with just the name, turning to study his reaction to it. She wasn't sure she had it in her to have to explain if he didn't know.

His frown deepened, as did his curiosity. With a shift of his hips, Fin turned himself at an angle to better face her. "Salome? Wha' abou' her?" Oh ****, did Shae not know about her? Blue eyes flared wide but he waited to see what Shae had to say about the fallen warlock.

"I'm working on something." The deepening of his frown eased a knot in her. "I only-- only found out recently that she was gone. So." Slow inhale, slower exhale. "I'm wondering if you would help me. I'm going to try to make a sort of memorial and, well, I wanted to know if you'd be willing to share a memory with me."

Blonde head tipped to one side, trying to understand the turn their conversation was taking. Working on something? Something for which Salome was needed? Her long breath in and out softened the Scot's expression, reaching across the small space between them to lay a hand to Shae's shoulder. A small squeeze before he retracted his hand, cradled his mug to his chest.

It was on the tip of his tongue to say that he couldn't help in the way that Salome could but Shae surprised him. Brows shot up, thinking it odd that this was the second conversation he'd had about memorials in the past month. Maybe that was a sign? Something to ponder later. "Wha' sort o' memory are ye wantin'?"

Shae had done a terrible job of explaining what she was doing and what she wanted to accomplish, but he'd managed to follow. Her hand raised to the one he placed on her shoulder and stacked on top of it to give his hand a small squeeze.

"Something...quintessential to her. A moment or a conversation or a feature about her. Something you noticed or experienced that shouldn't be forgotten." That, at least, she put more effort into explaining. "I want to put several of these together to be shared, and accessed in the future."

Once again, his features eased with a small bit of warmth seen behind the cool blue of his eyes. "Aye, I think tha' would be lovely. I think Crispin would benefit from it verra much." Fin hesitated for a moment, licked his lips and continued. "Wha' are ye thinkin' to share from yer own memory? Have ye asked Crispin or is this to be a surprise?"

"The end result is to be a surprise to him. I offered to help him plan something for her, but he seemed very lost and in the end he just surrendered to my offer to make an item of remembrance. It may have to be incomplete, what with..." Another inhale to steel herself. "Other people being unavailable." And on she pressed. "But I figure, when they come back they can add on, if they want."

She let her hand drop from his and into her lap. "I have a few impressions to pick from still, but there's one memory from talking to her that may win out. Ultimately, the hope is that the different perspectives will form a fairly decent picture of her."

Crispin's grief was still too great to be articulated. Fin nodded to hear that, not surprised in the least. "I be certain tha' he will appreciate it as well as he can." The Nephilim was beyond guarded with his emotions and no doubt would be overwhelmed by the gesture, unsure how to respond.

"How are ye goin' to share yer memory? Will ye write yer story or have some wee magic charm to tell yer story o' her?" Was this going to look like a found-objects collage or would it be more cohesive?

"I haven't decided the final shape, but the memories would be collected by an enchantment to turn a specific object, likely a small pearl, into a vessel. The various memories would then be slotted into the final item. And they could be accessed to experience them over and over." It may not make sense out loud yet, but it made sense in her head.

"It's going to take some time, but when I'm ready, would you be willing to share a memory in this way?" She had no idea if it would be too much or too little for Cris. Cris had lamented that nothing felt like enough.

Oh. Ooohhhhh. After finishing the now-tepid tea, Fin reached up above to blindly set the mug on the counter, doing the same with Shae's. "When ye first asked, I was imaginin' some sort o' art work or sculpture tha' ye wanted me to make. Are ye sayin' tha' ye want to pluck the memory from m'head wit' magic?"

"Hang onto that sculpture idea, I find I rather like it. Or would, if there were some location to put it." Chewing on her lower lip absently. There always was that memorial garden Thorn had been involved with. "But, yes. That's essentially the idea. Only it's less me taking a memory, and more you offering one into an object designed to contain such things." The distinction, and the intent, mattered.

Latching onto the idea of a location for the memorial, Fin let his brain work over it while pushing to his feet. Liath's head rose from where it rested on her paws, watching Fin as he moved to set the mugs in the sink. "How will ye take the memory from me?" curious about this process and what it would entail. "D'ye mind if I have a smoke?"

"I keep telling you Fin, I won't be taking anything." Small huff at him that housed no real agitation. She watched him rise, but was in no huge hurry to follow. "I don't mind, provided I can abscond from here with some of your handrolleds. I've missed them." Pushing a hand through her hair, she tried to explain again. "There is a spell that turns an object into a vessel that can store memories. When it is created, it is primed so that it is keyed to accept the memories of the first person who touches it. They then decide, by focusing carefully, what memory they will let the vessel copy. It is experienced over again very vividly."

Well she hadn't explained the process yet! That was all he wanted to know. Her explanation did much to assuage any anxiety he'd had about sharing a memory with an enchanted pearl. "I will be able to decide which memory it be an' how much of it? It will no' be stolen, ne'er to return?"

Fin's cigarettes were far more popular than he was - people always missed them, came back around just for get their hands on some more. He could make a mint selling them, most likely, but that wasn't how he wanted to make his coin. "Aye, have as many as ye like," punctuating that with a half smile. A few long strides carried him to the couch. Lowering himself to the cushion, the blacksmith reached for the silver case that held the coveted cigarettes. Flicking it open, he pulled one and then left it open on the coffee table.

"That's right. You put as much in as you want. It doesn't leave you, it's just echoed there. Just have to be sure you're paying attention, because there aren't do-overs with this sort of record." She knew how he'd reacted to magic before, which is why there was no irritation in her voice.
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Shae Stormchild
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Embracing the Ironmonger, Part 3

It was Ketch's fault that she'd gotten hooked on the cigarettes the Scot made, and he was a bastard for it. He'd moved to the couch, so she took the chance to push herself off the floor. Small grunt for the effort and then she was standing, stretching each limb with care. "Thank you. I'll have to ply you for your methods, one of these days, or at least contribute to your materials so as not to put you out by making them." She knew it wasn't just her who stole them from him.

Shae stood on the other side of the room as if she feared to come closer. It was such a change from her previously cavalier confidence that he studied her with faintly furrowed brows. His cigarette was lit without having to take his eyes from her, leaning back as he exhaled. "It be no secret, how I roll them. Ye be welcome to watch." No magic or mystery necessary. "But I would no' turn down the rollin' papers if ye be inclined to purchase them." One corner of his mouth flipped at the corner a moment before lips wrapped around the smoke.

"Salome liked bein' here, more than she expected. But I do no' know if she enjoyed any one place more than the other. If ye know of tha' place, we should set the memorial there. I think I have an idea tha' we could make together tha' may work." If Shae didn't already have something in mind.

The woman breathed in the smith's space, taking her time to cement herself in the little details between words exchanged with her host. Aiming to be fully present, a small smile hovered on her lips and she eventually made her way over to join him on the couch. In passing, her fingers reached out to tousle his hair before she found her seat. She'd noticed the puzzlement as he'd looked at her, that gesture said. "It's a deal then. I'll take you as a supplier of one of my many vices and in exchange I'll make sure you're not lacking for rolling papers."

"I don't. Know of a place that is. I'd still be interested to hear your idea." Even if she couldn't say for certain whether or not the Nephilim would consider a more formal memorial that involved people. One ankle tucked beneath the knee of the other leg and one of the hand rolled cigarettes from his case was being turned over in her hands. She lifted it to her nose to smell briefly, so much better than the months stale ones she'd kept in a small stash.

Liath watched Shae's path toward the couch, tail thumping twice against her cushion before it curled against her leg. Her chin was set to the tops of her paws, obviously eavesdropping.

The touch to his hair sent a crackling sensation along his nerve endings, raising the hair on his arms, some latent charge that lay dormant in her fingers until their magics merged, lightning rippling across the surface of his skin. After a hard shiver, Fin curled the leg nearest to her, angling himself to reflect her pose, inside elbow resting on the back of the futon.

"Lucy is wantin' to build a wee chapel for Reg, a memorial wit' the same intention. I do no' think Salome would like such a fuss but 'haps somethin' more modest would be appropriate? Cris would no' want some gaudy thing."

Shifting her ill gotten sample of tobacco into just one hand, Shae leaned down to give a short scritch to the top of Liath's head. When she straightened again, it was because she noticed the vibration of that shiver in the Scotsman. He mentioned Lucy and her lips parted in thought, as if preparing themselves for the reply that she hadn't fully formed.

They'd jumped the gun though. Instead, she was bringing the cigarette to her lips and curling her hands around the end of it to light it. Soft glow from empty palms reflected in her eyes, and then a wisp of smoke. "It's hard to say what she might have liked, but small and tasteful would probably be the only thing Cris would accept." Shae personally doubted anything would feel right, but her ability to think on it was currently disadvantaged.

"Speaking of Lucy...Cris told me she's been helping you." He'd brought the woman up and that trick with the kettle had been rolling around the back of her mind.

Fin echoed her around a cloud of smoke. "Small an' tasteful. Aye, tha' is wha' it shall be." The vision in his mind's eye solidified and he felt certain that it was something Cris would like. The perfect location was still a question but he had faith they would figure it out. Leaning toward the table, Fin set a plastic ashtray between them on the couch, ashing into it before leaning his cheek in his palm.

"Helpin' me? Oh, aye, wit' focusin' upon m'magic. She has been showin' me a few wee things to do to help me gain more control. It has been some time since I ha' broken any bottles." A quick-fire smile came and went, disappearing behind another cloud of smoke that was tilted away from Shae's face.

"I'll let you know when I've prepared a vessel." And then, perhaps, she would see what it was he was plotting.

Shae savored the first few draws in silence, eyes heavy lidded and sighs for exhales. As had always been the case, the coils of smoke that escaped her lips were made animate by the breeze that never left her. It trickled from the cracks of her and sent smoke cavorting towards his ceiling. Even the edges of his own cloud got pulled into the living currents.

It was only after she knocked a spent section into the ashtray he'd strategically positioned that she replied. "Have you learned anything? Origin, limits, nature?" The hand not holding the coffin nail was resting in a line from her ribs to her hip.

Fin finally put his finger on the difference between Shae-before and Shae-now. Now that he recognized it, it was glaringly obvious and he felt foolish for not thinking of it before. Lips had parted to comment on something but that observation was stifled, saved for another time.

The silence that fell into the space between them was a comfortable thing and Fin let himself rest inside it, shoring himself up to keep the conversation going. Not that it was a chore with Shae, but more that it was a chore with anyone these days. He so often felt the listlessness of depression, forcing himself to put one foot in front of the other every day.

"Origin, no. I still do no' know why this happened or how, but...I s'pose I have become accustomed to it." Slowly, Fin was accepting it as just another part of himself, albeit a new one. "I no' be certain wha' ye be meanin' by the nature of it. The limits are...still bein' found. Now, it be limited only by m'understandin' of it, I think."

"When you came to see me last year," she began, with a small hesitation before the time frame chosen as if she had to double check with herself that it really had been that long, "it seemed to be an empathetic tie to water." Magic, he called it now, and it soothed some part of her to hear that there was no hesitation to the way he called it his magic. This observation was reinforced by his statement about becoming accustomed.

"I more wondered if it continued to limit itself to water," Shae explained. "As for the nature, well, perhaps that was an unfair question as I think I would be hard pressed to find anyone with a good definition on the nature of any sort of magic. You can come close though. Things like, where you believe the energy to be coming from, how you control it, and what things you are capable of as a result."

Had it been a year? Christ Almighty, it seemed impossible. And yet, so much had happened since then, Fin figured he was remembering things wrong, that he was messing up the timeline in his head. Rather than the panicky reaction that Shae remembered, the Scot was relaxed, working harder on finishing his cigarette than anything else.

"I ha' no' noticed if it be anythin' other than water. But water be in all sorts o' things I had no previously though' about." Almost any liquid could be manipulated to some degree, though Fin wasn't sure about the mechanics of it, nor could he explain how it worked on a molecular level. "I do no' know where it be comin' from, I think tha' be tied to the how of receivin' it, aye?" Or maybe it didn't but those concepts were too great for Fin to accept just yet.

"I know tha' if I be feelin' strongly, there be more power behind it but it be harder to control. Lucy has shown me some meditations to help me wield it better than I was before." Again, the how of his control escaped explanation though he tried with a frown to think of something that would be acceptable. Cigarette was ashed and then stubbed out in the ashtray, less than a half inch left of the butt. "If I focus well enough, I can make it work by...by thinkin' it, I s'pose." His gaze swung to her, trying to gauge from her reaction if that made any sense at all.

It had been before the new year, of that she was sure. Back before she'd moved into Church House. She remembered his presence in her room at the Inn. She still maintained the rental there, but now it only held her in temporary displacement. Shae had moved late the year before and exiled herself into research not long after. From there to today was a series of mistakes.

Fin's explanation was regarded with obvious interest. He had the full of her attention for it, and the duration wore away much of the remaining body of the hand rolled she'd been indulging in. No interruption was given as he sorted his answers out and laid them for her consideration. Now and then she nodded, though whether for encouragement or to satisfy some inner question was hard to say. "Will to power," the first words came to her as she was stealing the final draw before fingers became imperiled.

"That's what you're describing it. Where you think a thing and focus it into being. Will to power. It's a common tenet of magic." Half a smile then, cigarette smudged into the ashtray to join the corpse of his.

"Will to power." The words were muttered to himself, committing them to memory to share with Lucy. It was a rather straightforward explanation and he was proud of himself for understanding it. "Is tha' how yer magic works? Ye think o' somethin' an' then ye do it?" Other than the warding charms and blood magic, Fin couldn't think of more he'd seen her do.

"Wha' be the nature an' limit o' yer own powers?" He and Lucy had some conversations that compared and contrasted their powers but it had never gotten technical or theoretical, only what each of them knew by experience. "Would ye like a beer?" His mouth felt dry and he wasn't in the mood for more tea. Pushing to his feet, Fin walked around the table rather than brush past her, heading for the small fridge.

"Magic can work like that, at times. It varies from caster to caster. You can perform magic with the aid of a focus or without. The more complex the magic, the easier it is to perform with the help of materials or other people to focus the intent." Both hands came up to rake through her hair. This was a complex subject, and not one she was used to explaining. "Let me see if I can word this better."

Before she tried again, she answered his last offer. "I'm very picky about beer. If that's all you have, then I wouldn't mind a glass of water." She was used to drinking liquor, wine, or the occasional honey ale. The variety of beer brews on offer in this city still baffled her.

"The amount of energy it takes to think something into happening is, for me, related to the size of what it is I'm aiming to do. Something like warming my tea, moving an object, or lighting a cigarette are all examples of things I can just think of and do. The universe doesn't argue too much over these little shortcuts. A little of my own energy is all it asks, and it gets easier with practice, more efficient. Sometimes the amount of energy you'd trade for just 'making it happen' is prohibitive. That's where spells come in. The spells help define intentions so no energy is lost. They take materials, often. Over time, some smaller spells can be shifted, maybe, into the category of 'think and do', but it's often safer to leave complex things in spell form." She cut herself off before she went into a full lecture, mostly to make sure she hadn't lost him.

Fin glanced back over his shoulder once he stood in front of the open fridge, awaiting her answer. He watched as she raked a hand through her hair, the way the dark locks slid and tumbled around her face, accentuating the color of her eyes. It reminded him of something he couldn't quite put his finger on. Blinking, he barely heard her request for water before nodding and turning his back to her.

Not trying to impress or show off, Shae's glass of water was supplied by the sink although he didn't touch the handle to turn it on. With both drinks in hand, he headed back to the couch, sinking down next to her.

Surprisingly, he did mostly understand her explanation but his curiosity led him in a different direction. "I do no' think I will be doin' much wit' spells." Couldn't think of anything he wanted badly enough to try cracking open a book of magic. If it was in another language, forget it, he could barely read English. "Have ye e'er touched the limit o' wha' ye could do wit' yer will alone? Withou' spells?"

Too distracted by trying to describe her understanding of magic smoothly, she hadn't been conscious of his distracted observation. She may even have missed his clever little fill of the glass he was now offering to her, or she kept her amusement to herself.

Accepting the glass from him came with a grateful smile. She was indeed thirsty, a third of the water level was lost before she lowered it. "Mm." Much better. She brought it to rest in the crook her folded leg made until she needed it again.
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Shae Stormchild
Old Wyrm
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 10:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Embracing the Ironmonger, Part 4

What she hadn't told him about spellwork was that it didn't necessarily live in a book. Very few of the spells Shae performed had been gleaned from any written source. "Well...in a way the spells I used are my will. I'm just putting limits on it so the universe can't **** me too harshly. It's like...like making a cast mold. You can sculpt something into a particular shape anytime you want, but a mold will make it more uniform each time. It can help you keep control of things when the unexpected happens." That aside, she added: "But finding a limit? That's not a defined line. Many things influence where that limit is. Much like you, stronger feelings in me may result in more umph to whatever it is I'm attempting. Enough heavy casting without pause will certainly put me down for a while. I think if I ever did find the limit it would be for something that killed me."

Once again, he curled a leg and angled himself toward her. The arm that rested on the back of the couch grasped his beer bottle loosely by the neck. Blue eyes rested on Shae's profile while she gulped down the water, watching how it threatened to spill where the glass met the corner of her mouth but she made some minute adjustment to keep it contained. Her throat bobbed with each swallow - not as pronounced as a man's but still observable.

"The universe will **** ye?" Cue a skeptical, uncertain look, not quite sure what she meant by that. The subject of limits was much as he'd said before - limited by his own imagination and the strength of his feelings at the time. Even though it wasn't a hard answer, knowing that he'd been on the right track caused a small spark of pride that he kept to himself.

Licking her lips, her reply was a drawl full of color. "You bet your sweet Scottish ass it will." There, an unexpected grin that entirely broke with the fragile mood she'd arrived with. Sometime between the roof and now, Shae had found a measure of herself to live in. The grin itself, while amused, also housed a shadow of regret that suggested she was speaking from experience.

"The thing about making demands of the universe is sometimes you ask for more than what you bargained for. Certain magics require balance. Luck, for example. Anything at all to do with luck leaves you open to all sorts of mischief if you aren't prepared for it. If it didn't, no one would ever gamble with a spell caster because they'd just win everything." One finger tapped absently against the side of the glass in her lap and she let her eyes drift aside to try and read the label on his bottle. "It's my leading theory on how I came to be here."

Fin snorted, a rare half smile forming, sticking around for longer than it took to blink. Partly reflexive, partly born of genuine humor, it faded only when hers did. "It sounds as if it all be somethin' I should no' be attemptin'. It reinforces m'belief tha' I should no' be tryin' any spells." Nothing for a specific purpose, such as luck or money. Fin had no desire for such intangible things as that and what he did desire couldn't be obtained with magic. He knew enough to know that.

The label of his bottle was intact but noticeably lacking condensation. A wheat beer with citrus overtones. "Ye think tha' be why ye came here? The universe was takin' its payment for wha' ye wrough'?"

"Seems a fair assumption. Could just have been some magic gone awry, but I know I was borrowing heavily from luck before I woke up here. It's reasonable to think that, in all of the chaos, I didn't properly balance the scales of what I was doing at the time." Up came the water glass for a second visitation and the loss of another third. "I wouldn't suggest attempting it, no, but that wasn't exactly a spell, either." Hexes were their own animal, and often limited to certain magic users.

"I don't think you'd go amiss with spells for protection, or the like," she added quickly. "I'm not trying to scare you off of spells, at all, it's just that I always was too ambitious with them. I'm sure Lucy could offer you a better example of how to be responsible. Like...setting up some sort of steam process for your forge. A spell could keep it working." As he'd said, imagination was the limiter.

As she spoke and gestured, a tendril of hair slipped lower and lower over her shoulder until it spilled against the side of her neck and over her chest. Fin watched its slow descent before meeting her gaze, head canted to one side. "Why were ye borrowin' luck before ye came here? Wha' happened?" It wasn't exactly the line of questioning he wanted but it was better than ruminating over the circumstances of her captivity.

"I do no' know how many spells Lucy knows. Her experience wit' them no' be the most successful." All he knew of were the spells she attempted with Reg and those had gone south quickly. Jack had to fix everything for her at a price that he hoped Lucy would never have to pay. "Wha' d'ye men abou' a steam process? Wha' would steam do for the forge?"

It occurred to her then, as she was looping that errant strand behind her ear, that she'd not told many people at all about the world she came from. And considering what Cris and Cianan had discovered over the course of rescuing her, this shot an arrow of guilt down to her core. She'd put much of the implications of that aside when he'd been willing to move past asking her about where she'd been, but now it nagged at her conscience.

Still, she delayed. "I was fighting." It was a beginning. "Before I woke up here, I was part of a force defending a strategic retreat from a trade city. Luck, on a battlefield, is akin to cheating death when properly applied. I was doing that for others." It was a gross understatement of what she'd been attempting. A web of fortune and misfortune spread across a body count that grew with each target that had passed into her range. "It bought us time."

There went the rest of the water. The glass left to rest against her thigh. He would have been able to notice by now that her ears were slightly redder on the lobes. A second set of holes recently pierced there and still sporting the stainless starter accessories. He had more questions, and so she side stepped her guilt to answer them. "Steam can be used to create power for a mechanical process. Steam engines, generators, the like. You might be able to make a hammer powered by steam, I suspect."

Somehow, the addition of additional piercings in her ear escaped the observant artist, focusing instead upon the glimpse into her previous life. An insight into who she was now. "Ye were a warrior?" Now that was something to which Fin could relate, recalling easily the feel of a blade in his hand, defending his life from others. More visceral and physical than what Shae had done, so it sounded to him, but the principle was the same.

It didn't surprise him to find out she'd been a fighter. There was steel to Shae that she wasn't afraid to show or wield if she deemed the moment worthy of such. She was brave, in Fin's eyes, with nerves of steel that usually communicated into an unshakable veneer that nothing could pierce. That was how he'd always seen her and it had intimidated him.

Making a face, Fin shook his head. "If I had a hammer powered by steam an' no' m'arm, I would no longer be a smith. I would no' be makin' things wit' m'hands as m'Da taugh' me." That was what he loved about his craft more than anything, the fact that he could simultaneously find a creative outlet while honoring his father and his heritage at the same time.

"I was in wars." The title of warrior not quite one she'd claim for herself. It evoked the blood spattered blade wielder. Now and again that might have applied, but it felt disingenuous. Magic and strategy were her weapons, often at close range. "The last one was a total defense, though. We were under siege. Everyone in the city was a warrior at that point." Fight or die. Still her conscience railed at her.

"The enemy we fought at that time," she relented to it in fits and starts, "has begun to make some inroads here. And they were involved in my absence. The individual who held me must have making deals with them, thankfully unfulfilled." All that water and her lips and mouth were dry as a bone. "They'd been spying on me, and others." A sharp inhale before the last. "Cris found drawings of several people they'd been looking into. Most of my acquaintances, in fact." There. It was out now.

Her voice trembled slightly and she gripped her water glass tightly. It was the most unnerved Fin had ever seen her except the morning she came to tell him that Cris died. Still, even as she spoke, he got the sense that she wasn't worried for herself, necessarily, but more lost in a memory. The war, the fighting, ending up here, being captured...everything was one more layer made heavier by the next until one eventually cracked under the weight of it.

He'd sipped beer while listening and now the bottle was set against his leg where it wouldn't tip over. A callused palm was set on her shoulder, squeezing for the second time. "I be sorry for all tha' has befallen ye, Shae. D'ye know how they were spyin' upon ye?" Fin assumed that the acquaintances of which she spoke were related to the war, people she'd known in her own world. "D'ye have anywhere to stay tha' ye feel safe?"

Worried for herself, no. Concerned now, that he wasn't fully grasping the point, she stared at him as he squeezed her shoulder. "I'm trying to tell you, Fin, that they weren't just spying on me." Most of her acquaintances, she had said. Only one person from the world she came from had followed her here, and that person was nowhere to be found. "They were watching everyone I know." She was looking at someone she knew right now. That's where her worry was, that's what had her unnerved so. Others were being made vulnerable by dint of knowing her. It was infuriating. Guilt tasted like copper in her throat.

"Most of the sketches were lost, but Cris still has the one of Salome. There are maps, too, that seem to have marked patterns of movement. I don't know how, exactly, they've kept out of notice, but it wouldn't be that hard to do. There's no rule saying they had to announce themselves. They could have just watched and listened. This city is a riot of people that should make you paranoid. What's one more shady figure in the mix?"

Mention of Salome caused the wires to connect for Fin, realizing the true scope of what she was saying. Eyes flared wide just before a deep frown set in. "D'ye think tha' they were responsible for her death? Wha' did Crispin say on it?" The questions tumbled out before he could think of the effect it might have on her. Still, he didn't worry for himself, only the others around them.

Though he was repeating himself, he felt the need to ask again. "D'ye have some place to go tha' ye feel safe? Somewhere ye can stay?"

Shae shook her head firmly in denial of that possibility. "She..." Ah Salome. "The last thing they had written about her was that she had left town. And, from what Cris told me he knew, I don't think it connects realistically. Their observances, if hers are any measure, seem to be much like a cataloging of who might have helped me. Who might have been of use to them, ultimately." There were some details she was sparing him, until she knew for sure he needed to hear them.

"My wards at Church House have been compromised as a result of the events that led to me being taken. My fault, really." Her voice didn't shake, but it lived in a tone that attempted to express the facts without interference from her emotions on the matter. "I'm staying at my old room at the Inn for now. I kept it up, just in case."

Fin didn't want to be spared any details but he didn't know of their existence so he could hardly ask after them. The grief and worry in Shae's eyes, how they became tight at the corners, was evident. His hand dropped from her shoulder to take on of hers in his grasp.

"This no' be yer fault, Shae. People hurtin' ye, those ye care for, it no' be yer fault. Ye canno' control any o' tha', aye?" Fin knew, intimately, the taste and feel of guilt, how it lurked in every thought. "An' if they try to hurt ye again, ye will no' be alone. Ye no' be alone in any o' this. Is there anythin' tha' I could be doin' for ye, any way to help?" As much as he'd withdrawn from the general public and eschewed their company, the Scot wouldn't hide from a fight that kept his friends safe. At least now, he had something better to offer than a solid blade and loyal support. "D'ye want to stay here the nigh'? Salome warded m'home, I do no' think we could find stronger," offering a half-hearted smile that was an attempt at reassurance.

The woman looked down to where he'd captured one of her hands. She could feel the calluses that shaped his palm and fingers. The strength that came from all the time spent at his forge. "No, the wards are my fault. I didn't make that creature crawl through them, but I weakened them in my own desire for answers." Again a statement geared towards fact.

After several seconds of staring, she squeezed his hand. Whether it was to reassure him or to reassure herself was hard to say. Something cold and angry lurked in her stomach. It bled a little into her eyes. "They won't succeed if they do try. They do not belong here and I intend to see to rectifying that as soon as I can." As soon as she found herself wholly again, the witch would hunt. How dare they. Not here. They didn't belong here. "If I don't, they'll just kill more people. The ones they already took...that's bad enough. More people will go missing. It will be Ravenhold all over again."

The offer shakes her out of the memory of the few remaining captives that Cris had herded past the ruins of others. Gold eyes refocus on blue and she takes a slow breath to swallow the anger back down. "I..." Indecision. "I hadn't considered it. But I think I should be fine getting back to the Inn."

"Ye will no' be alone in tha', either," he murmured in regards to Shae rectifying the situation. Withdrawing his hand, Fin sighed softly. He would have enjoyed the company but he couldn't put that on Shae to provide. Not now, in her state of recovery. "We will no' allow them to kill another, aye?" A reassuring smile curled his mouth before he finished off his beer and set the bottle aside.

"If ye need anythin', even an ear to listen, ye know where t'find me. This place be warded an' there be Liath," glancing to his dog with a smile. "She be a fearsome thing when she wants." Maybe it was true, maybe not, her training had never been tested. He looked back to Shae, the smile faltering. "If ye...if ye find tha' ye canno' stand to be alone or ye be havin' nigh'mares, please do no' keep it to yerself. It...it can be verra difficult to speak on the images tha' stay wit' ye but ye do no' have to speak on it wit' me. I know...I know how much another's presence can bring comfort." If Shae worked that way, not everyone did and he wasn't trying to assume, just put the offer out there.
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Shae Stormchild
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Embracing the Ironmonger, Final

Shae pulled her fingers together, considering the way they intertwined. There was a want to agree with Fin, but she couldn't avoid the realistic thought nagging at the back of her mind. It would take time to find them. Precious time. "Thank you, Fin." At least, she told herself, she could accept that offer of help. "I want you to promise me that you'll try to be safe. Keep an eye on yourself, and Lucy. Promise me you'll let me know if you notice anything strange. Anyone following you, or her."

Inhale. Eyes shifting to Liath with a soft smile. "She's wonderful." Warm affection for the animal evident in her voice. Exhale. Her gaze lifted to his concerned face as he extended the offer of company. "And I would like that, but..." But. "I don't want to stir up memories that would bring you more sorrow." He had not hidden the struggle in him from her. She knew her telling him about the watchers was necessary, she owed it to him to warn him, but she had also observed him edging back from the details. "So, only if you're sure my presence will not cause you grief."

"Ach," he scoffed with a chuckle. "I hardly go anywhere, there be nowhere to follow me. If they wanted to find me, they need only stand outside m'door." He gave a half smile despite the bald truth of the statement. Thank the heavens above that Salome warded the forge before...before she left.

A curious frown formed, canting his head to one side. "Stir up memories? O' Stefin?" His frown deepened while shaking his head. "No, lass, those memories be wit' me whether I speak o' them or no'. If I can use them to help another, tha' be all I could ask. Tha' some good come o' them, aye?" The reason he edged back from the details was because he didn't want to push Shae further than she could handle, didn't want to stir up her memories since they were so fresh for her. When he'd found freedom, it had been so painful to talk about any of it, afraid of how others would judge him, and he applied that same courtesy to Shae.

"No, lass, I would enjoy the company verra much." His expression eased into something with a touch of warmth. "No matter the time, please call if ye need someone else wit' ye."

It was an odd way to try and reassure her that he would be safe, but he'd said Salome had warded his property, and that itself was a balm to her worries. "I mean it, Fin. These people...they are ruthless." Sighing, she let it go. Eyes glancing towards some memory hovering in the space over his shoulder.

Shaking herself a little to refocus, Shae stood with her empty glass in hand, flashing him a soft smile as she carried it over to the kitchen to deposit in the sink. Her fingers lingered on the glass, quiet in thought. Moments later she stepped away from the sink. Her lips parted to speak, but no words came out. Mildly frustrated, she brought a hand up to scrub fingers across her mouth.

Rising to his feet, Fin trailed after her toward the sink. "I will be careful, lass, but I do no' think I be one o' those tha' be wanted as much as others. I could no' contribute anythin' to yer cause. I am no' central to yer work." Not even to her social life. "I no' be important enough to kill." Another little half smile on the heels of that statement.

The humor faded as she tried to speak. He could tell she was trying to work something out but was either stymied or was trying to find the best words. "Ye alrigh'?"

"My work," she echoed, not even sure she knew what that was. "My cause. You apply some grand terms to a woman just trying to restart a life and protect people in it." Shae managed a crooked smile that faded as quickly as it appeared. There was no easy way to explain it, but she tried. "Anyone I choose to spend my time with is central to that. And that is probably why they took the effort to look at you."

"I've...a lot on my mind." It was an understatement. Gold eyes studied his face openly with one arm crossed against her stomach. The fingers that had been scrubbing at her lips, hadn't fallen away. They'd drifted to the side and then returned to steeple against her lips. There were a mess of things she could say, but she wasn't sure which ones were right. "I would like to visit."

"Ye've always been on a wee bit of a grand scale." It had always seemed so to the humble Scot, anyway. Shae knew everyone, knew pretty much everything, and was more powerful than most here could dream. In short, she was incredibly intimidating when she wanted to be. "Larger than life," he murmured.

"O' course ye do, sweeting." The endearment tumbled out thoughtlessly, seeking to soothe and comfort. "As I said, call me or come to see me any time ye like. It be rare tha' I no' be home. Yer always welcome in m'home." He wanted to give her a big hug but didn't know if she'd be comfortable with that.

The Sylph would have baffled to hear the full of his opinions about her. Instead, she could only puzzle at the descriptors he shared. Brows drawing together in a slow crimp. When she spoke, her voice was slightly strained, confused and seeking clarity. "What do you mean, ‘larger than life’? We shared breakfasts every Sunday for weeks...walked...you watched me dance and made me candlesticks and a lantern to gift to a friend. That was grand to you? In those memories am I something unreal, to you?"

His endearment soothed the edge of the hollow feeling that had begun in her lungs. As did the reiteration of the invitation that followed. Still, as she looked at him, the crimp above the bridge of her nose tightened and her brows raised. For a moment her eyes lost focus. She blinked them furiously to regain it.

Eyes widened for the frail anxiety he heard in those questions, as if Fin were casting doubts upon her or maligning her character. He just thought she was grander than himself. Pushing himself up from the counter, Fin stepped around the corner of the island to take both of her hands in his. "Ach, no, love, no' a'tall. Ye be verra real. I only meant tha'...well, ye be an educated lady with fine manners. Hardly fit company for m'self." A self deprecating smile curled one side of his mouth, stooping slightly to try and catch her eye.

That was when he saw the thousand-yard stare, brow puckered in concern. Her hands were given a light squeeze to try and bring her back. "Yer back, Shae," crooning softly, his thumbs rubbing over her knuckles. "Ye be safe here." He was afraid she was lost in a memory of her captivity, as he had so often been.

It was a ghost of the phantom that had haunted her in captivity, unintentionally brought to life. He took her hands, pulling them away from her in time for her to take a breath. "Lucy is a lady." The first words out of her mouth a quiet rebuke of how he'd classified her and an example of where the line should be. If Lucy was fit company, said the guarded look in her eyes, why wasn't she? But of course, the Trickster had told her why. In detail. Wearing the faces of her friends.

The squeeze pulled at her thoughts, and she blinked yet again. "I'm sorry." Shae swayed back half a step. "I was just reminded of..." Cutting herself off, Shae shook her head. "I should probably go."

The differences between Lucy and Shae were vast but it had nothing to do with how Fin defined them both as ladies. If Lucy had never gone to prison, Fin couldn't say that they would be close at all, maybe not even friendly with each other. "Lucy is a lady, aye, but we did no' become close until she was imprisoned." Just as Shae had been, though the circumstances were different. "I think I canno' befriend people until they ha' been through some grand hardship tha' they will ne'er be able to forget." Kindred spirits and all that.

If Shae pulled her hands away, Fin let her. "If ye wish to speak on it, I would be glad to listen. But if ye want to go, I understand."

Tired, the tension began to bleed out of her, until only the tired remained. "It's not the first time I've been a prisoner, Fin." Her mouth was dry again. Achingly so. She broke away gently, she hadn't pulled out of his touch until that moment, and it was for a purpose. She was refilling the glass she had used at the sink and drinking deeply from it. Once, twice. Silent save for the movement of water. And then: "Sorry." A shake of her head. "Thank you. "

Fin wasn't sure if the wilt of her shoulders was due to weariness or the emotional toll this conversation was taking upon her. Still, he felt a stab of guilt for badgering her and keeping her out so late.

Frowning, he watched as she headed for the sink and kept her back to him while she drained the cup in her hand. By the time she was finished, Fin was at her elbow, concern evident in his searching gaze. Brushing a lock of hair over her shoulder, his hand settled at the middle of her back. "Ye do no' have to be sorry for anythin'. I apologize for pesterin' ye wit' questions." He wanted to know her story, the details of her previous internment, but he recognized it for the selfish desire it was. Instead, he would leave her be until she felt like sharing.

"No. I do. Because my reticence is not your fault." Both hands braced themselves on his sink after she returned her used glass to its interior. The tuck of her hair an the hand to her back shook a slow sigh from her. Her gaze found his ceiling and then found her own knuckles as a good target. "The truth is I'm getting caught up in a memory of your face that doesn't belong to you. And it's not right, because it gives him what he wanted. And it's not fair, because it wasn't ever any of you."

"I don't mind the questions Fin. It's okay." It wasn't the questions that had unnerved her, anyway. Just words. Just words. Inhale followed by a small smile fastened in place like armor.

As long as she didn't move away from him, Fin stroked her back with short movements, attempting to soothe the obvious internal struggle under which she labored. Her justification left him confused, slowly trying to pick apart her statement to see if he could fit the pieces together at his own pace. Nope, he still didn't know what she was talking about. "A memory of m'face tha' does no' belong to me?" Did he get that right?

Slow, steady breathing was what she found herself focusing on. Her voice sounded distant to her own ears, as if it wasn't really her speaking. As if she was just listening, like Fin. "The Faerie who held me borrowed the faces of the people I know and wore them to trick me. To undermine me." To break her, shake her. Several of those faces were now gone, or missing. She had no new memories to replace them.

Shae had come to the expert on having mirages and hallucinations used against him. Releasing a heavy sigh, Fin stopped fighting his instincts and pulled her into a hug. "Wha' sort o' things did they say to ye?" his voice low and soft.

Shae leaned there woodenly when he wrapped his arms around her, closing her eyes and just breathing. "I'd rather not say exactly," murmured into his shoulder, "but it was what I wanted to hear, what I was afraid to hear, twisted in a way that made me doubt myself and others."

The Scot couldn't dredge up anything that she would want to hear from him or that she would fear to hear from him. Oh how he wanted to know what that could possibly be but the stiffness of her shoulders told him he'd overstepped already. As usual, his attempt at help wasn't helpful. Releasing her, he took a step back, the tips of his ears warm. "I am verra sorry tha' ye had to go through tha', Shae. I wish there was somethin' I could do to help ease yer burden."

He couldn't be expected to guess at her insecurities and they embarrassed her to speak on. She knew they'd be dismissed with warmth and good intentions. Reassurances would be on offer, but she wasn't ready to hear them. If she voiced an echo of what she'd heard in the caves it would have been like acknowledging the possibility of them. That some corner of her heart could imagine a world where they were true. Her stiffness had nothing to do with his hug. He pulled back and he would find that she stepped after. Stealing the hug back from him in her own time. Her arms were a tight wrap around his ribs and she sighed.

The lass was no easy puzzle to put together. Her body language sent mixed signals that confused him but he did nothing to deny the hug she sought. His arms wrapped around her back, settling his weight to allow her to lean against him. Fin stroked her hair and rested his chin on the top of her head, keeping his mouth shut lest he spoil the moment. Again.

Eventually, eventually she pulled the pieces back together. "Thank you." Shae sighed and loosened her grip carefully. "That...that helps." That the Scotsman didn't push her away, despite the confusions in her actions as she struggled with the memory of his doppelganger. It meant a great deal, even if she was hesitant to explain why.

"Whene'er ye need it, lass, for howe'er long ye need." That was a promise he would keep. Slowly, his arms unwound themselves from her back, fingers slid from the ends of her hair. "Are ye certain ye do no' want to stay? I ha' blankets an' pillows for ye." Wouldn't be the first or last time he'd kept the company of another damaged soul through the dark hours of the night.

In and out. Steadying breaths. "I'm. I'm certain. I think I need to wake up somewhere familiar right now." For the time being, that meant her room at the Inn. Where her wards weren't compromised. She didn't need to subject either of them to the panic while she struggled to orient herself each time she woke in the night. "But I will see you again soon. For Salome."

A panic with which Fin was intimately familiar. Too familiar. "Aye. But remember tha' ye can come see me for yerself, as well. Ye do no' need a reason to be here." A soft smile followed. "I thank ye for comin' here tonigh'. It was brave o' ye."

Her lips twitched with the ghost of a smile. "I'll remember. It's good to see you." She still had a few more people to visit. A few more faces to reconnect with. One hand reached out to squeeze his forearm. "The watchers will be hunted."

His hand was placed over hers. "I know it. But while ye be huntin' for them, I will watch o'er ye." Make sure she didn't run herself into the ground in the process. "Please send me a message when yer home, aye? So I do no' worry."

"I may need to ask you for supplies of iron shavings. Star iron if you can get your hands on it." The request was reluctant, but she made it anyway. "I will, I promise," she assured him.

"I will give ye all tha' I can." Fin ushered her to the door, holding it open for her and leaning against it. "I will see ye soon, lass."
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Shae Stormchild
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Colored Assumptions
The Inn, Midday, May 7th, 2017

This was a new experience for Droet, coming into a tavern sort of place with no one there. The tiefling swept past the bar to grab a bottle of wine and a glass, leaving coins next to the till to pay. Those acquired, he sat at a table and began the process of becoming quite merry, as the hobbits say.

Maps dominated a booth against a side wall. Maps and a woman whose quiet presence was stilled inside of the small breeze that emanated from her presence and filled a portion of the common room with the scents of herb laced tallow and parchment. Preoccupied, she stared at the detailed depiction of the city. Itself marred by symbols scratched in varying colors.

He hadn't noticed her, which quite rankled, but there she was so he looked her over as best he could with her still in the booth. Maps he recognized easily enough, though any marks were quite impossible for him to read where he was. "Pardon, I didn't see you." He waved his clawed hand at her as well.

Of the woman herself, when a movement stole her away from the background, a few words could be said. Black hair hung clustered over one shoulder, tucked behind an ear and out of the way of her pale gold regard for the hand recorded topography she was studying. Leather wrapped her limbs from the waist down, and a loose, light sweater of green, stained with ink at the sleeve ends, warmed her upper half. The degree of her distraction was made evident by the way she started when a voice broke into her thought. Gaze lifting, focusing at last on the source. Palest blue hidden in her skin accentuated the sharpness of her study. "Ah." The voice that decided her judgment of her company rang as polite. "No pardon needed." His face was a stranger, and her smile curved amiably. "I'm equally guilty."

"As it happens, orienteering is one of my great strengths. That is to say, would you like a second eye on that map there?" Though, of course, he had no idea what she could possibly be doing. He quite expected to be rejected, which was why he scarcely waited to take another sip of wine.

The offering surprised her, and she didn't bother to hide it. Elbows on the table, her fingers steepled together in consideration that took in horn to tail. "Well. It couldn't hurt."

He almost spit out his wine when she accepted. There was an awkward moment while he forced himself to swallow. "Then I'm here to help." He stood, grabbing the bottle and glass, before making his way to the booth and sliding in opposite her. "Hm. I recognize the city, of course, but... what are you doing?"

She'd been turning over the information before her for days, a fresh perspective might be what she needed. Amusement found her at his reaction. Polite offers were dangerous, perhaps especially where her kind was concerned. An unadorned hand gestured to the topmost map once he'd relocated. “Do you know this language, Necril?" The symbols adorning various points of interest had a sickly feeling, as if the script itself sought to decay.

He took a moment to look at it, then shook his horned head. "I do not. I'm guessing that you do, and can translate?" He was careful to put down his wine on a blank space on the table.

"Unfortunately." The bone thin scratches were colored in different inks, barely a few 'words' at each point. Certain locations, like the Inn were cramped with them. "Not very much there to say, but each of these," here pointing to a slash that looked like a tally, "is a marker for a sighting. Each color is a different subject that is being tracked. Their movements and," now pointing to where a tally of red crossed a tally of blue, "their meetings." The number of subjects tracked, by color, indicated at least half a dozen. Some more prominent than others. The majority of the marks were red, suggesting a central target of study. "What I have been trying to determine, perhaps impossibly, is a reverse engineering of the activities that gained this information. Scouting locations, numbers, and likely vantage points."

He took a moment to figure out what she meant, and then started looking for patterns. "You are tracking..." he said the number of inks used here, "people and their meeting places. While I do not really need to know how or why, I would like to hear your assumptions on these people."

Beneath the main map were several smaller examples, each a more detailed section of the city. "Myself, no. I'm trying to find these scouts, though. They have," the dip of her tone said unwisely, "been tracking me. As for assumptions? They are not native to this city. They would not be willing to draw attention to themselves. They would not hesitate to dispose of any who interfered." She pointed at a store house near the edge of the warehouse district. "I found one of their staging points here. They have a limited ability to move from location to location with the aid of a fixed and open gate. It must be protected or concealed, else anyone might stumble through it to another location. I know they have harvested from Dockside." Hand to her chin, a thumbnail scratched across her lip in thought. "Based on the quantity of information gathered, they've been here at least a year, if not longer. Probably longer"

"Are you red?" he wondered, making a bit of a leap. "What do you mean, harvested?"

"I am, in this context." That half smile didn't quite meet her eyes. For who, after all, liked being watched in this context? The smile flatlined for the follow-up. "Assume that in addition to tracking a particular quarry, these scouts are willing to fulfill a secondary objective when the opportunity arises. And that it involves the disappearing of those who won't readily be missed."

"Of course," he grumbled, taking a sip of his wine again. "So firstly, you need allies. People watching from, if possible, the rooftops. Invisible if you can swing it. Even better to have a person with true sight. I'm assuming these other colors are at least vaguely allied to you now. Do they follow you inside?"

"So. They need locations that are central, but also concealed. Accessible by alley, most likely, to avoid chance notice. Probably locations where sound will not carry forth, or places where abducted individuals can be held securely prior to transport." She quieted the dialogue that had been rolling around in her thoughts for hours, plainly curious to hear outside input. The mention of the rooftops tugs at the corners of her mouth. "Of those other colors, several are no longer here. And I am loathe to put many more of them at risk for the misfortune of having been in my company. To answer your question, I do not know if the scouts follow me in, for I do not know what they look like. For all I know I could be staring at one right now." The look she gave him was pointed, sharp as if to pin him to the cushions of the booth, but she relented with a chuckle. "But I don't think I am. For one thing, they'd be more interested in harvesting you than employing you."

"You're not," he confirmed, "though I can't think of a reason you'd believe me." Oh, that was great, thanks. "Forget what they need. Sure, they have a lair. You could figure out where that is, storm in, but there's another way. Which, as I said, involves allies. Ambush is one, or a good counter surveillance group."

Just speaking the truth. The threat was new but the conflict was old and she was familiar with the motives of the players in it. "So rather than focusing on finding more staging points, you would counsel watching the watchers?"

"It very much depends on what resources you have to commit to a plan. If these maps are any indication, you might have to go with the storm their lair plan. Not my favorite plan, since there could be quite a number of them, and the most likely place for your gate, right? So they can get quick reinforcements." He sipped his wine and rubbed his chin. "These named spots. Which is your stronghold?"

"Assume that their main lair has already been stormed. Or, more specifically, collapsed in the side of a mountain. They will be having to establish a new one, currently. Their scouting and hunting force was absent, so they still have most of their numbers." Leaning forward, she allowed her arms to fold against each other on the table. "My stronghold?" The two words held soft laughter in them. "Mm," she hummed with amusement, "here." She pointed towards a building in the Temple District that was simply labelled 'Church House'. "Assume, also, that this location has been compromised. That said, I have more than one location I could turn to that benefits from generous warding."

"I don't care where you sleep. I want the one you think is most unassailable. You just said this one is compromised, so it's not what I'm looking for at all. The other option is the trap ambush. Feign weakness and draw them in. Turn the tables with a place that isn't compromised. Or something like that. You make them sound like faceless butchers." He sipped some of his wine. "Pardon me, did you want a glass?"

"If you want unassailable, we're sitting in it." It would take someone particularly out of touch with the nature of the building to think that this location was a good one to attack. Public and historic, there was no good way to 'disappear' someone from the Inn. The walls practically had eyes. "But currently I don't have one I'm satisfied with. That's something to work on. Faceless, in a way. Dogmatic devotion, cult-like." The woman licked her lips as she considered the offer of wine. "Ah, no. But thank you." Then she was standing, moving towards the bar to fetch something a bit more suitable to her mood.

"That's a little scary, that you think this is the safest place for you." He poured over the maps again, now looking to see if he could guess at the hunters' locations. "So how many watchers should we assume? I mean, can we learn anything from the strokes? Do individuals make these maps or groups?"

The drink that matched her mood seemed to be bourbon poured into some variety of brewed tea. She spoke as she mixed. "Life is cheap, to their ends, but attention is not what they want." Yes, it was a little scary. "I'd say half a dozen if it's one for one. More though, if you account for shifts." It was easy, looking at the maps, to assume that they'd pick somewhere central to several of the locations. Currently, that meant WestEnd. "The map is probably distilled from a number of reports. The handwriting seems to belong to just one person."

"Someone leads your group of watchers. I mean obviously, but there's a person who specifically coordinates them. They have a single purpose. Trick this one person, and the watchers will do as you wish, within limits, I suppose." He sipped his wine, staring off into space.

Silence spaced between her motion from the bar back to the booth. "And how would you trick them? Try to feed them false intel? Disguises?"

"Perhaps!" Those were possible options. "You need to know how they track you. What just one of them looks like. If you know you're being tracked, then you can show them one thing. If you don't know, that is if you think you're not being watched, you can do something else. In the woods, we use bird calls to communicate." Which had only ended badly the once.

"Bird calls." Repeated against the rim of her mug. She understood the concept of a coded communication system, just not entirely how it applied. Unless, "I could try to discern how they're communicating with each other. I know it involves mirrors."

"Do you mean flashes of light, or some magic thing?" Because one of those was much easier to watch out for, at least for most people.

It's warm enough for a ride, but Cris elects to "walk out" the stiffness and excess energy left over from the morning's excursions. He takes the streets at his leisure until it leads him to one of the town's most popular hubs. At this hour, he hopes to still find the crowd modest to non-existent, and when he puts his shoulder against the door to let himself in, he isn't disappointed.

"Some magic thing, I suspect." A manner of linked scrying. Now that she was discussing the mirrors, there was a sense of connecting the dots behind those expressive gold eyes. "I bet they're using them to scout." Like another set of eyes. "I'm going to need to check the rooftops again." The door had opened and she raised her head to glance that way. Recognition lit her face. "Well, if it isn't blue."

"Blue? Oh, blue." Droet considered the maps again. "How in the seven.. hecks did you get your hands on these any way?"

Cris doesn't know what that connotation means, and because he knows Shae, it isn't necessary to tag her with a heavy glance to signals an addition to his head count. Droet earns all of his attention.

"He got them for me, actually." Inclining her head towards 'blue'. "During that storming, I mentioned." Another sip of liquor laced tea, and then to Droet: "I realize I have yet to ask your name, forgive me."

"My name is Droet. Likewise, I have failed to ask yours." A slight lowering of his horned head.

"Shae." Name offered. A slight raise of her voice that carried towards Cris. "Droet here has been helping me look at those maps, though I'm sure by now he regrets making the offer."

Cris realizes he can't linger near the door the entire time. Sucking the back of his teeth he heads toward the bar to get a measure of something before he impolitely adds himself to their booth. Or perhaps not, with that invitation. "You mean they've not yet caused a splitting migraine?"

"And hello to you, sir. No. Maps are easy to read. Patterns are a bit more troublesome."

Shae retreated a bit further in on the bench she occupied to make room for the addition. "I figured out that you're blue, and that I they likely have set up mirrors around town...like cameras." To help this make sense, she tapped a blue mark on the main map. "Droet has also kindly reminded me that I'm not nearly as fortified as I should be."

He locates the bottle he's been pecking away at for some time, recognizes the grooves he'd gouged into the label with his fingernails, and pours roughly two shots worth into a rocks glass. Returning the bottle to its shelf, he brings his journey's liquid reward with him toward their booth, though he does not resign to fill the space Shae makes for him, yet. "Cris," supplying after another three beat consideration of Droet. Then his gaze drops to the maps. "I'm blue?"

The scratched tallies in blue certainly seemed to line up with locations the Nephilim frequented. Including some he probably wouldn't be thrilled to see marked out. There were times when the blue hatched against the more predominant red color. And these aligned with some meetings they'd had. "Blue." Repeated for emphasis.

"Blue," Droet said, pointing to a suitable blue mark on the map. "Mirrors are rather breakable. You can find them with a strong light source, I think." The tiefling adds.

"I understand, thank you," Cris says to the map. His gaze connects the dots between talley marks, two of those locations, indeed, deepening his frown. He can take solace, at least, in one only one of them being useful now.

"They are breakable, yes, but just knowing where they are -- presuming my theory isn't an errant one -- would assist in the false intel gambit." Back to sipping her tea as her attention passed between the standing figure and the sitting one.

Cris takes a short sip from his glass, then digs out a brick of a black phone from his gear. Two short messages keyed in with his thumb, then he turns it off, locks it, and replaces it from where it came from.

"I'm still trying to align the other colors." It would have been helpful to have the other sketches and their notes, but she doesn't bring that up.

His next drink is double the first. He knuckles the corner of his mouth dry. "Which was Salome's?"

That one, at least, she did know. There were a few places that made sense, and only one other color was there. The lighthouse, a certain warehouse. "This one." She points to a purple.

Now, he does sit. Sets his glass near the edge of the table, out of the way, and bends up the edge of the map so he can see it better. He recognizes intersections and addresses, the shadow over his brow darkening. He taps his finger against one location in the market, where purple buddies up with another color. "Fin's forge." He sees two bed and breakfast addresses, a number of market locations. Cafés, restaurants. "We can thank the Angel, at least," he says quietly, "that Ketch is unaccounted for, at present."

"I have a feeling there are a number of things here that you know more than I in every sense of this situation," Droet murmurs.

Hand drawn back, she cradles her mug. "Yes." There are a few other colors there. Lucy probably. An orange and a green also. She spares a glance for Droet and then looks back to the map. "You're insights, nevertheless, have been valuable to me." At the mention of Ketch, she frowned into her mug. Lips part and then close.

"That can, at once, be a blessing and a curse." Cris sets the map down, pulling a hand down his face. His phone sits like a brick, its weight palpable despite his seat in the booth. He looks across the table. "It does not hurt to welcome fresh eyes, once in awhile." He crosses his arms over his chest, looks briefly aside to Shae.

A blessing and a curse, this phrase seemed to have defined everything about her recent days. "I might not have remembered the mirrors, had you not started talking about your bird calls."

Cianan slipped in through the side door, not really expecting too many people to be here. He was halfway towards the bar, before he really turned and looked, "Oh. Oh!" A few blinks, and his head tilted to the side. The Drow glanced back over his shoulder towards booze, before creeping in towards the party.

"Do you mean they have some sort of elaborate system to direct reflections, or have they enchanted these mirrors to record what they see?" Cris hears a voice, and his head drops back to thunk, none to nicely, against the booth.

"It was a communication system, of sorts, but given their numbers and the amount of information here it's not a far stretch to think they adapted it for a broader purpose." Like cameras, she had said. "It's still just a theory. I'd need to go for some walks to confirm it." At last, a smile was reappearing that seemed wholly genuine. Schadenfreude for the thunk of Cris' head? Possibly.

At least Cianan wasn't dressed in the chainmail anymore. A simple button up shirt, purple, along with a vest that was undone. The sleeves were rolled up high on his tattooed forearms, before he peeked his head around the booth, throwing up a hand. "Hey." A brief sharp toothed smile.

"To break mirrors, or find the trailers or..?" Droet drank the rest of his cup, then poured another with a glance towards Cianan. "Another color?"

The angle of Cris’ head stretches his throat and the black Marks riding either side. "Perhaps as a way to canvass the entire town at once. Surveillance is irritating, but I find the existence of those teleportation circles a shade more concerning."

"Maybe some scrying spells, mixed with something that'll let a person see magic. They might just go blind though, because of this stupid place." Cianan wiggled his fingers in greeting towards Shae, and Cris. Droet, got stared at a bit, with a brief narrowing of eyes.

"Well. First I want to find the mirrors. Then, I suppose, I'll decide what to do with them, if they exist. Maybe use them to trace the watchers." Counterintelligence, as Droet had said. Her smile was bright for the face of the Drow, that was her hello. "Yes, the circles are troublesome. But I am hoping that they haven't set up many of them. They require a bit of investment. The more of them there are, the worse the situation is. Cianan, Droet. Droet, Cianan." Bouncing the names by way of introduction.

((Taken from live play, with thanks to Droet the Bold))
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Impatient Guilt
One of Cianan's Apartments, Late Evening, May 7th, 2017

As a houseguest, the man who today called himself Ferys was a pendulum between nightmarish and considerate. The fulcrum between these two sides was his blood alcohol content. Drunk, the man left empty bottles and half-eaten food around, threw pillows at walls and generally was a noisy nuisance. These days his windows of hungover sobriety were spent picking up trash and cleaning his own blood out of Cianan's things. At the particular hour, the place was well arranged, save for the man sitting against the wall with all nearby pillows shoved aside. Between his denim covered knees a six pack of local brew was a third of the way gone, soon to be half. He stared at a point on the wall, a very particular point. If one were to draw a straight line between the man and the woman who was currently excluding him from her company, it would certainly pass through that point.

The handle would shake a few times, checking to see if it was locked, and locked or not, Cianan would eventually be coming in with a key. Maybe the handle jiggle was just a sign for Fox to get his pants on, if he wasn't wearing any.

The door was shoved open, and Cianan moved inside, carefully removing his coat to toss over the kitchen counter. A few first sniffs, and it hit his nose. He was kind of glad that his sense of smell wasn't better. Pizza, not on a plate, and left to die... was gingerly moved into the trash can.

He kicked a few pillows out of his way, and took his boots off.. after considering if it was wise to. "I see you've... made yourself at home?" He winced a bit, putting his hands in his pants pockets. His chin lifted slowly, and he eventually angled his view on Fox, "How are you?"

Lucky for the Drow, Fox had needed to buy beer. What space there was to be had in the fridge was now occupied by longnecks. In the time that he'd been fostered on Cianan's hospitality, he hadn't yet had anyone other than the Drow walk in so his level of response to the handle jiggle was underwhelming. There was a grunt that might have served as a 'hello' on offer between pulls from bottle number three.

Fox's nose had told him that the pizza would last a little longer before it poisoned him, but he likely wouldn't notice that it had been offered to the trash can. He lost track of things like that lately. The floor was clean, as sober Ferys had been present up to about a half hour ago. Another grunt, upgraded with a shrug for the statement turned rhetorical question. It was the actual question he couldn't avoid. He broke his gaze from the wall and turned it over and up to where Cianan stood making a study of him in his Hawaiian shirt glory. Hair back to russet red in color looked like it hadn't seen a comb aside from his fingers.

Gold eyes, like Shae's but for the shape of the face they sat in, were bloodshot, staring. "Waiting." The word had a bite to it that quickly died. Irritation subsumed by guilt.

He couldn't help but smile, for the Hawaiian shirt. He wasn't going to share why, but he moved into the room, and kicked over a few pillows to plop, unceremoniously upon them in front of Fox, reaching out to take a bottle from the pack Fox had in front of him. "Waiting. I get that." Gripping the top, he opened it up with a hiss, and a small fizz, before he took a drink. "You look pretty.. not good. I mean, you could use this time to.. learn an art, or distract yourself with something.. not booze related." Not everyone had Cianan's constitution, and his was aided by regeneration.

"Give someone up for dead, find out they didn't die, not be allowed to properly make amends for what happened. See how artsy," finger quotes, "you feel." The words came with an air of sarcastic rejection concerning the idea of him with a paintbrush. It was clear that he had found a hobby of sorts, if one could call semi-regular bar fights a hobby. Faded bruises lived on what skin was visible, and there was a dark scab running along one brow. Thankfully there were a lot of places to drink in this city as he was racking up lifetime bans like it was a competition.

"I don't know. I'd be pretty pissed if someone gave me up to die, and I wasn't dead. In fact, I have been pretty pissed about it." He took a sip from his drink, and snorted. It wasn't helping. "There's a barb in your heart, that gets placed there, and no, you didn't do it on purpose.. but it takes a little while for that barb to meld with your flesh, and become the new you again.

"Right. She has every right to be angry. It's just...she deserves an explanation." Not just why he hadn't come, but about those things she though he'd been keeping from her. Maybe it was something selfish to say that, but he thought he could weather her anger as long as he was sure she had all the facts. Then he was damned because he deserved it. Not because of a misunderstanding. Waiting. He was waiting still.

"I'm far better at playing the jackass." Far better at lashing out to seek some measure of punishment. Self flogging by proxy. Ferys seemed to realize this didn't belong with the people he knew, at least. The people that Shae knew. He'd tried to stay away. "I'm sure I haven't been a treat to deal with." The almost-apology came before a sip and a wince.

"You are pretty good at playing the jackass. Just stop being a sad-sack jackass.." Cianan groaned, "You haven't. Poor Senka.. arm shattered, had to be amputated." He wasn't sure how much of that Fox remembered.

Recognition of Senka's name has him pausing. "You fixed her br-- arm." Half doubtful, unsure if Cianan is making fun of him. The memory of that accident outside the Inn had a haze over it called whiskey. One thing he did remember though. "I tried to climb the wall in the alley. Didn't work." And then he’d tried to force his way past a sober Drow and a beautiful woman he’d mistaken for a tree spirit: Senka. He was staring at the Drow again, trying to weigh how many words he ought to say.

Cianan was Drow, he could keep a stone face, pretty well, with just a hint of sadness in there A slow shake of his head, "Nah. Just busting your balls. She's fine, I even got my back up back." He tapped his finger to his ear, where the ring lay inside. His fingers were full, but he did have back ups.

"I could feel her. Can feel her." He’s not talking about Senka anymore.

"If you try to go at her with an explanation now.. what do you think will happen? She's not ready to hear an explanation. She's too mad, upset, you'll just be talking at a brick wall, and nothing will sink in." Cianan reached out with his foot to gently kick Fox. "So. What would be the point? Wait. Let her breathe. Let her calm down a bit.. let her settle, and then she can actually hear you."

He brushed his finger under his nose, "Just gotta wait it out, until she's ready. She eventually will be, I mean, you're connected.. just give her time. Grab a new hobby or something. Less drinking. Magic the Gathering?" Cianan chuffed.

"While I'm waiting this out, what remains of the cell that was in that cave is making their own moves." Less drinking was a hard sell. Fox felt compelled to do more of it. "Magic what?" Asked with a frown against the bottle.

He tapped his finger against his nose. "They are. We know this, but we're not completely in the dark anymore. We know they've been watching us, and we can start to counter, and start hunting them."

"Just slow your roll. If there's one thing you should have learned from helping Shae, is what happens when you go off half cocked, unprepared, and without taking time, right?" Cianan's seen what Shae does to herself! "Yeah, and I know.. I'll talk to her about easing up at the moment. We're not in full form for a scrap."

Cianan made good sense, even if it was difficult to hear. Along the way, some of the frustration left his bearing, but the measuring stare remained. Several sips of beer passed his lips while the Drow spoke. When the man called Fox chose to speak again, he did so after a small shake of his head.

"You're telling me to wait until she can hear me, but do you actually think she'll listen to you if you talk to her about easing up?" Dry amusement filled the question, and the look he gave Cianan held sympathy. "If you wanted her to do that, you probably should have waited to tell her about the maps and the sketches."

"Enough ice cream and a new Game of Thrones season will distract her well enough." Cianan snorted. "No. I can try to talk to her, though. Once she gets her head on things, it's kind of hard to reign her in." He fell back into the pillows, and threw one at Fox's face, just for the hell of it. "There are ways. I guess. I'm not claiming to have all the answers. But if you go in, she'll redouble her efforts to just not think about you, or because she'll be stubborn, and you'll automatically be wrong, no matter what you're saying. People are like that."

The pillow bounced right off his bonce. Thankfully there wasn't a bottle flirting with his teeth when it did. "You're damn right it is hard to reign her in." Fox considered the pillow as it came to rest on the floor. "I suspect she's getting in her own way, right now, or you'd already be lamenting about how reckless she can be." Shae responded disproportionately to threats to the safety of people she cared for. "At another time I might be worried that her control would slip from the riot I feel coming off of her."

Beer met lips for the last swig needed to kill the bottle in his hand. Looking at the empty, then side eyeing the Drow as he exchanged it for a new one. "Ice cream won't cut it this time, Cianan. I hope you know what you're doing."

"Nope." Cianan admitted, "Rarely. I just kinda scrape on by with grit, pluck, and luck." He wasn't going to make Fox feel better about all that probably.

Cianan fell back into a pile of pillows.. and hopefully not onto any hidden pizzas. He wasn't sure if Ferys ate like a fox when he was in human form.. with the whole mousing thing. "But, exhausting myself worrying about it won't do any good either. It'll just make me more tired for when the problems do come. Gotta take things one step at a time.

There was a bottle opener floating around somewhere. Fox groped the floor for it, found it by his leg, and proceeded to flip the bottle cap at Cianan's head. "Healthy thing to admit, I guess. I was wondering who you were trying to convince in this conversation, me or yourself." Sparing a glance for that spot he'd been staring at and then tearing his eyes away from it, Fox tilted the beer to his mouth.

Silence stretched, broken abruptly by: "I was a dick the other night. With what Senka said."

"Both. Nothing wrong with a bit of self pick-me-up, when you're trying to help out other people."

He shrugged, "And you were. I'm probably going to knee you in the balls for it later." He admitted. The bottle cap would just bounce off, and Cianan would frown!

"Maybe that, too. Senka didn't seem to mind. She got all patched up, might still think, that you think she's a Nympho.. and that you're name is ****er." See? No plan. Improvisation wins again!

The man opened his mouth but, showing an uncharacteristic amount of restraint, changed his mind with what he planned to say. Acknowledgement of a debt, or maybe he'd just decided it was none of his business. He filled it with beer and went with option two. "Territoriality is an unreasonable bitch." Snort. "I'll make it up to her eventually. ****er is a kind of cool nickname though. Sounds a lot better in the common tongue."

"Sure. We can go with that." Cianan didn't agree, but he'd let Fox thing that if he wanted to. "Could you do me a favor, and like.. treat this place a bit better? I know you're all depressed and junk.. and I'm glad I didn't find you in a bathtub, drinking constantly, with the water now mostly being pee."

A small exhale, "But, I do have to, you know, live in and sell this place at some point." He placed his hand on the ground, and shifted back up to his feet. "You need food? Or more talking?"

He had the good grace to wince. "I'll do you one better and leave soon." He nodded towards the wall. "Shae went to Church House." Which really meant only one thing. Which was the real reason he had opted to sit with the wall for support. "She's resetting the wards." It was an endeavor to initially set wards for a property of that size. Cianan might well remember what it had taken to properly hide Antonia's apartment. Shae was just fixing what she had broken, but it was still work. "If she's bothering to do that alone, she's either planning on going back there or just wants to make it safe for Kate. If she stays at the Inn, I'll go to Church House. If she goes to Church House, I'll take her room at the Inn."

"How about I go to Church House, and see what's up with her?" He wrinkled his nose, "You have a phone?" He pulled his out from his pocket. But stood up to write down the number on a piece of paper, lifting it up to Fox, "Call. Text or something."

"Sound good?" He groaned at the thought of Shae resetting the wards now. Of course she would. "I can let you know on where to go. I don't mind you staying here.. just.. you know. He reached under a pillow, and pulled out a slice of half eaten pizza. "Blood on walls.. dents in walls.."

"I don't, but I know what a payphone is. Why do you want me to call, exactly?" Not that he was refusing the paper with the number. Instead he was putting it in the pocket with the colorful flower on it.

Cianan's face and that groan said a lot. And then he cleared up the mystery. "Ah," said the Fox. Frowning at the remains of the pizza, he muttered something along the lines of thought I'd gotten it all. As for the blood and the dents: "I'll do something about that, sure." He was an animal caged, but he did have remorse for being such a feral thing.

He held up his phone, and gave it a bit of a wiggle. Then added a one in front of the number, just to be sure. "Ask any place for a phone, and then dial this in. You'll be able to directly contact me. Like magic. But, not."

"I'll head over there now, maybe I can distract her with a dinner, or something." He was turning to go grab his coat. Maybe thinking he'll need to call some kind of magic exterminator or something after Fox leaves... just in case. "Do you need anything else? More clothes your size? Food? Pop Tarts? A picture of Lucy basking naked on the back of a giraffe?"

"I know how a phone works, asshole. I've stolen Shae's a few times." The resulting conversations were often priceless. More than one strange woman had called Shae's phone to rail at her for stealing the 'foxy redhead from the bar'.

"Right." Good luck with that, that single word said. "No I'm fi-- wait, can you actually get that last thing? I don't know what a giraffe is, but I like everything else about that sentence." Brows up, shamelessly hopeful.

"Probably not. But, I can text her to ask." He's texted her weirder stuff, for sure. "Hey. I didn't know. You spend most of your time as a Fox. You might not want to know, or care." A lazy shrug, he was firing a text off to Shae though, that read, Hey. Looking for You. He moved over to Fox, through the pillows again, and placed both hands on Fox's shoulders, "Seriously. Take care of yourself. You won't be any good to her, if you're a drunken mess."

Grunt and a drink of beer. The hands on his shoulders were shrugged off lazily. Heavy eyed glaze was spreading, suggesting the beer might be his last for the evening. His bonded, after all, was working. "Yes, yes. Go on." Another swig and a wave of his hand. "Let me know if you get that picture."
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 11:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Coping Mechanisms, Part 1
The Inn, May 11th, 2017

The couch in the common room was currently hosting the lanky lounging of the man called Fox. One arm behind his head, one foot on the floor and the other stretched out across the cushions. His clothing was borrowed -- a Hawaiian shirt and tan slacks -- from Cianan. He was mostly certain that the Drow was subtly making fun of him, but he couldn't bring himself to care. Instead he curled the ratty leather jacket tighter around his midsection and lifted the bottle of beer in his hand to his lips.

His face and hands were mottled with bruises and small cuts. Between this and the collection of dead soldiers on the floor by the couch, the man looked like an insurance liability. He was either drunk or hungover, perhaps some stage of both. Three more unopened bottle stood waiting on the table above his head.

Cris likes to visit the inn during its off hours where all he'll encounter are dust bunnies and the errant crack of settling wood. Sunlight spills in through some of the west facing windows, warm and quiet, a reminder of what he leaves behind when he resigns to four walls and a roof. The breeze at his back is cool, but not cool enough to chill, and he's grateful for it. It's been too cold for too long.

His cursory sweep of the lower level catches a trio of bottles on a table, not all that uncommon, and a curled arm. It smells faintly of cigarettes. His attention on the couch, he heads further in.

Fox hadn't taken up the same habit as Shae, he had his own vices, but the leather jacket he shared with her was more often in her company. His sensitive nose could smell his bonded in the lining. As he drank, his eyes were not on the windows or on the hearth, but on a particular spot on the wall. The draft from the door opening carries with it a familiar scent. He indulged in another swig before breaking the silence. "Hullo featherbrain."

Surprised to hear speech, let alone a nickname, he'd thought the lounging body either asleep or passed out completely, he frowns and shoots a look backward over his shoulder as he passes the couch by. The tea can wait. Slowly, he turns. "Good afternoon, Fox."

Like the dead rising, the man sits up with an audible groan to go with the motion. "Want a beer?" Bottle used to gesture towards the three dripping condensation onto the table. His hair is finger combed wild, decidedly russet red, and approaching the line of 'too long' to pass off as anything but laziness.

He blinks in further disbelief, but decides to take the other man up on the offer before he changes his mind. Sleeves of his hoodie pulled down tightly over his hands, he slips some fingers through the holes at the cuffs. His frown deepens at the graveyard of bottles underfoot. He heads around it, carefully takes one of the beers. "How long have you been here?”

Callused fingers scraped at the back of his neck. "If you mean at the Inn, since Sunday. If you mean here on the couch, mm, an afternoon." Squinting, Fox regarded the Nephilim as he stepped past the light from one of the windows. "If you came looking for Shae, she's back at Church House."

He holds the bottle, smearing clean streaks through the droplets on its label. The soggy paper wrinkles under his thumb. "I'm not." Giving the same consideration he'd given Fox to the nearest empty chair, he grits his teeth and resigns to perch on its arm. His gaze skips between the empty bottles on the floor, then back up.

Both feet on the floor, the redhead leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. The bottle he was nursing hung loosely in the coil of his fingers. "Come to drink alone then?" Tsk. "Bad habit, that."

"You're one to talk." The beer chills his fingers. He lets it go, sets it down between his boots and rubs his hands dry.

"I'm not alone, you're here." His smile slid sideways. He knew that first statement was hypocritical, much like he knew the second one was smartassed.

"Unfortunately." He picks at the corner of his thumbnail. "And who kept you company prior to that?"

One hand raised to his chest melodramatically, as if wounded. "There was a lovely lady, but I think that was last night."

"Mhm." His gaze drops to his hands, "Why did you come here, of all places? Somehow, I thought you did only because you followed Shae."

"I need someplace to lay my head and it's too quiet on four legs. I came here to use the room." A point upstairs. "You thought I only came to the Inn when I was trailing her heels?"

"I could not think of any viable reason other than that. Thought perhaps raiding the fridge counts."

"The free food that comes with the rent is certainly a plus." No free food came with the rent, but so far no one had deterred him from his pillaging. "What, do tell, is it you envision me doing with my own time that an afternoon in the Inn shocks you?"

"If one wishes to be alone------" dispensing with the idea that that hadn't been what Fox was after. He'd certainly done well enough to locate company when he was "in hiding" and he'd believed Shae to be dead. "-----one does not come here. It isn't shock at finding you here that surprises me so much as the fact that we are speaking in a semi-coherent and serious manner."

The man spread his hands with a light smile. "It takes a bit to get me well and truly soused." Nevermind the fact that four months of heavy drinking had helped to rebuild his tolerance. "And I'm not here to be alone." Bottle rose and fell. "I'm just waiting."

"You were drunk enough to think Senka was some sort of nymph." He chews the corner of his thumbnail until it's round and short enough to subtly ache when he applies pressure afterward.

"I said it takes a bit, not that it was impossible. At that point I was past waiting." Still, the mention of Senka makes him wince. "Hardly my fault she looked like she walked right out of a wooden beam. I was a bit focused on trying to get past the Drow bouncer."

He pulls a face of disbelief. "How, by the Angel, Cianan is the size of a small child." He sucks his teeth, then adds, "and just as irritating."

"And I was drunk. And he's a bit more lethal than you give him credit for." That last was an understatement, though Fox seemed to be amused by Cris' irritation and dismissal. "He lets his attitude disarm you, but I wouldn't discount him in a proper fight."

"I do not underestimate him. He has a great deal of knowledge that I do not, experience and capabilities that I do not. But that does not mean that I must like him, either." He folds his hands tightly.

"We weren't talking about his likability. You were mocking the fact that he was giving me trouble." Easy smile, lazy baring of teeth. "I wouldn't have reached out for the girl if I didn't think she had wood strength. I'll just have to make amends."

"I was," it may have been an excuse to say it. He generally does not need one. His opinion of the Drow, against that of his close friends, was extremely low. But that was his own issue. "She's fine, now. But the tumble you took gave her some moderate injuries."

"Cianan assured me she was fine now. He fixed her up, lent her one of his rings to help put her to rights." Fox shrugged, unable to change what had happened. He could only offer his apologies when he saw her.

He nods, scratching the outside of one thumb with the other. He watches the movement like it's the only interesting thing in the room.

Fox sighed and drained the last of the bottle in his hands, lowering it to the ground to live among the rest throwing colored glass light onto the floor. "I'm sorry. About Salome. The only time Shae has spoken to me since...has been about that."

It isn't what he expects to hear. It isn't what he wants to talk about, for starters. His brows fold in tightly in the center. He closes his eyes as he swallows, and he nods. Six beats pass before he ventures a quiet, "Thank you."

Fox had spit the sentiment into the lull because he didn't know when he'd have the opportunity to speak with the man alone again. Shae was currently riding the edge of her impulses wherever they took her and it was hard to distance himself from her mindset even if he wasn't able to speak to her.

Their silence gives him time to wad the ball of emotion into a lumpy sphere and toss it to the back of his mind. Frowning, he breaks the lock of his hands. Lifts the beer between his feet and twists the cap free with a sharp jerk of his wrist. "You are waiting for her to speak to you, aren't you?" Cris doesn't feel the need to specify, there's a different emphasis on the pronoun.

"I am." There was no point in denying it. "I owe her an explanation. Whenever she's ready to hear it. Meanwhile I'm sitting here. Up and down with the things she's doing. Trying not to go out of my mind." With a lean to the left, Fox was reaching for another bottle. Its cap was discarded of with a practiced angle and bump against the edge of the table.

"Up and down?" he takes the first sip. The beer is cold enough, still, to taste good. He wonders if, for Fox, it's meant to soothe and deaden the tumult of the aftermath following Shae's retrieval.

Fox took his time to respond, rolling a mouthful of beer past his tongue more than once. "She may not be speaking to me, but our contract doesn't give a damn about that. I've felt her this whole time. The riotous way her moods are shifting, the magic she reaches to me for when she should be resting. I may not always know what it's about, but sometimes I do."

"The magic she's reaching for. Have-------" frowning, he holds up his hand. If he's curious, he does not need to ask Fox. He can ask Shae, himself, later. "It must give you some sort of relief to have this connection again, though, yes?"

"It does." He leaned back, voice quieting. "Of course it does." He could be grateful for it, even if he was tormented by it. "She renewed the wards on Church House, for example." Here, nodding towards the wall. "I knew she would. It was only a matter of time before she threw herself at it to try and fix it."

Cris nods, turning the bottle in his hands. His gaze rises at an angle. "Of course. It's her home, and she refuses to let it, and herself, be so violated a second time."

"I'm sure she'll say it was for Kate." Fox rolled his shoulders one at a time, trying to ease some of the soreness out of them. "And part of it probably was, but you're right. She will have wanted to reclaim it to spite them."
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Coping Mechanisms, Part 2

"Do you believe that's all it is?" Cris holds his next sip of beer under his tongue.

"There is very little she does that lacks for shades of meaning." It wasn't a yes or a no. Not really. The fact that it leaned towards an answer was enough. "She'll push herself more now, to prove something."

He ventures his own guess, "That she is not really as foolish as she feels she is for her desperation?"

"It wasn't so desperate a plan, given the knowledge she was working with at the time. Hell, she convinced me to go along with it and it's pretty much my job to talk her out of things." The bottle was turned in his hands. "Was it foolish to trust a Fae she didn't know? Sure. Even if she did think it was her relative. Blood relations don't mean ***. Still, she will condemn herself for that hope."

Fox sighed. "That's not what I meant though. I feel doubt in her. There must have been something more that happened in that cave to put it there so deeply."

"Hell, it's foolish enough to fully trust them if you do know them," Cris says quietly against the mouth of his beer bottle. Another drink sucked through his teeth, he squints at Fox. "Beyond that obvious fact, why did you oppose this?"

"Why did I oppose what? The wards?" He only assumed that's what the Nephilim had meant. "Because she uses her own strength, her blood, to cast them. If she underestimates the cost she'll be weak and vulnerable. Cianan got wind of it and went to go talk some sense into her, presumably." Maybe not effectively. Shae had finished the wards, but at least nothing bad had happened.

"No, no," he shakes his head, briefly raises one hand. "You said that she convinced you to go along with her plan to contact this-----phantom relative. It stands to reason, then, that you opposed it in the beginning. Was it merely because of what it may cost her, did you have any reason to believe something like did happen would happen to her?"

Understanding finally, Fox took a breath and explained. "I opposed it initially because she was unfamiliar with the herbs. She's never tried spirit magics of that kind before and she was meant to have a guide for it. I wanted her to wait until he came back. Did I think she would be taken by a very living creature? No. No I didn't. I was afraid she'd half-poison herself with the herbs themselves. They are dangerous if mishandled. Of course, she researched them meticulously. Poured herself into testing until I felt secure that I wouldn't need to rush her to a healer."

He nods. It makes sense to him. But Cris cants his head a moment later, "Is that all?"

"That's the second question you've asked like that. Is there something specific you're expecting to hear?" Both brows raised slowly.

"Perhaps. But often, answers can be given in parts. Staggered in a hierarchy, with necessity at the top and privacy at the bottom. I do not think you're lying to me, nor intentionally keeping things quiet. I'd merely like to know as much as I can."

One hand raised to drag down the side of his face and then sketch roughly against his mouth. "I didn't know enough. Didn't remember enough to caution her against it beyond concern over the herbs. So at the time, that was all."

"And what about now?" Cris sets the beer down, "What has changed?"

"The contract." Long draw from the bottle in his hand lowered it to the halfway mark. "The original one was overseen by the divinity who stripped me of who I was and locked me in four legs. Something about the way it broke has given me small glimpses of memory."

His brows pull in. "Does Shae feel the same sort of connection to you as you do her?" It's a tangent, but he humors it.

Fox was about to give a ready answer, but found he had to pause to consider. When he began, the words were measured. "The contract is new. It's hard to say how it might have changed. Before, though, I had more insight into her than she had into me. Strong emotions would bleed back the other way, but much of the point of our bond was me as warden to the parts she couldn't control."

"Is it possible that she can feel all of what you do now? It will not negate the necessity of a conversation, but surely it must soften the urgency?"

"Feeling my regret and knowing what I have to say are two different things." Bottle tilted from side to side. "It may soften her towards me, and that's my hope. She can hold a grudge that lasts a long time and I'd rather not be on the receiving end. Cianan keeps telling me to be patient."

"Is the effort to maintain this patience what's driving you mad, or is there something else?"

"It's part of it." Fox was an impatient creature. "The other part is her, what I can feel. She's a mess, as is to be expected. And I can do nothing but sit here until she's ready to let me in again."

"In your time together, has anything like this happened to her? Not------necessarily an identical incident, but something that instills the doubt that you feel."

"It's rare." He said carefully, aware he was treading on things the woman didn't often share. "And the doubt is only a component of it. Rage. Fear." Slow sigh.

He nods. He can only guess the source of both of those emotions, but he thinks he can get a good idea. He's quiet for nearly a minute, sorting through what he's been told already. He lifts the beer to his mouth, guides its neck on the curl of his little finger.

Fox drank in silence while Cris sorted through his thoughts. Adding only: "She's been held captive before. This time was worse, I feel."

"This time, she was harried by falsehood and forced to remain a state where she could do very little to stop it all," softly. He rolls the beer bottle between his palms. "The divinity you mentioned. The one who stripped you of----yourself----" he looks up, "why did she do this?"

The man grunted once in agreement, drowning the sound in a sip of beer. The last. The bottle lowered to the floor with the others. One bottle remained and he eyed it sullenly. "She wanted revenge. I served someone who She felt had wronged Her."

"How mature," dryly. He scratches his brow. "Do you know what it is that Shae was trying to learn? Beyond the obvious genealogical connect-the-dots."

"No one ever said goddesses needed to be wise or fair." Mature was equally optional. Fox sat back, bringing one ankle up onto the opposite knee as he spread his arms over the back of the couch. "Control."

"Yes, that too," he says with restrained flippancy. "The information she seeks for herself, do you, personally, have it?"

"If you're asking me if I have the slightest idea of what she needs to know to control her nature, I don't. I wouldn't keep that from her." He frowned at Cris. "What I do know is that I recognized the face the Fae wore when he claimed to be her biological father. I think he was the one I served."

"You think?" curious more than accusatory. "I suppose that would quell any suspicion over the Fae fabricating the whole thing. Shae would not know what sort of face she's looking for, the Fae could have chosen anyone. Do you think he meant for you to see it?"

"I don't think he, the Fae, knew who I was. I didn't really know who I was. I still don't. Not much is understood about witches or their familiars. Unless She decided to tell the Fae about what She had done, I don't think he would have chosen the face for my benefit." The frown lingered. "So he must suspect that they're actually related. Maybe he thought he could confirm it if Shae recognized the face."

"What purpose would that serve, if she sought him out specifically to learn about him. Face included." He rubs his forehead, "By the Angel......"

"Shae was seeking the spirit of a relative, we had no idea who would show up. This...Trickster, he had his own agenda and put on a show. I can only assume why. They must want her if she's connected to the man he was pretending to be." Fingers raked through his short hair in a gesture that was similar to one Shae often used.

He pulls his hand down his face, rubbing his mouth and jaw. It does nothing to erase his frown. "She thinks you know something, Fox," he says, after nearly a minute of quiet thought.

"I know she does." He sounded tired. "And to be fair, I do. More than she does. The fact that our first contract was not just facilitated, but orchestrated by another, for starters. That is the only secret I kept from her consciously, because I had to. The rest, well, I didn't remember it until I woke from that creature's slumber."

"Part of that contract, I presume," rolling his hand. He sits back in the chair, finally. Props his left ankle on his right knee. "What is the rest of it?" Then he holds up a few fingers. "It's all right if you'd rather only discuss it with her. I will not ask again, if that is the case."

He considered Cris and nodded. It was a secret that was demanded of him as part of the arrangement. The rest of it...he looked around the Inn and then leaned forward. He didn't see the harm in sharing this with Cris, but his voice was quiet. "I think that face, the one I served, might well be her father. I mentioned before, someone else came through from our world, a friend who has since disappeared. She called Shae Dalharil d'l'Maral’senger. That's a Drow phrase. It means 'Daughter of the Stormlord'. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but that man and that title, Stormlord, go together in my mind."

His eyebrows go up at Fox's covert glances across the room. He'd just gotten settled, but he leans in to match to be certain the account does not travel too far beyond them. Spoken, he understands the Drow phrase, but he nods along for Fox's translation. "And you served this man-----in what way?"

"I feel like he was a comrade, or maybe a leader. I felt loyalty and trust when I saw his face and it caught me off guard." His expression soured. Shae hadn't been the only one to be caught up in the moment of contact after her attempt at the spirit walk.

"You said that your memories are returning, yes? You're regaining knowledge. Does any of this knowledge include that man? Do you know his name?"

"I don't remember it. Not yet. Just the feeling of him." The laugh that shook from his chest was humorless. "It's terribly disconcerting to see a face you know you'd die for and not know why."

"I can imagine," he says, though he really can't. Any that he'd choose to lay down his life for, he knew the exact reason why. "How swiftly do these memories resurface?"

"Not. I'm not even sure they are still resurfacing or if the fractured pieces I got were just what She couldn't completely strip from my mind." The flash of his teeth was a silent snarl of frustration. "Of course, I've tried to knock some loose." Maybe literally if the bruises were an indication. "So far...nothing else."

The bruises, he thinks, are a product of too much restless energy, too much anxiety, too much of the incorrect thing. "It has not been that long, and this last contract you shared with her spanned several years. It may yet take some time."

"I don't know how kindly she will feel about waiting another century for answers, Cris." He eyed the last beer bottle again, but didn't move for it.

"You do not know if it will take that long. By then, you may have reconciled enough that she may be able to help you regain what you've lost. Or perhaps trigger a single memory that will give you several."

"Perhaps." That single word after a long stare towards the wall. Then, golden eyes rested on Cris again.
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Shae Stormchild
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Coping Mechanisms, Final

"The night we collected her, when she and I stayed here, upstairs, she asked for my input on the matter of truths withheld and secrets kept, and I told her that you must have a reason for doing so. Whether it be of your own doing or someone else's," he motions at Fox, "and now we know that it is the product of some narcissistic goddess' wounded pride. Or something close to that effect. I believe that she owes it to herself to hear you, and you owe it to her to explain what you can. However, loath as I am to parrot Cianan, attempting patience is the only course of action open to you, at present."

Brows ticked upwards slightly as he processed the Nephilim's outpouring. There was a level of study to his regard, something considered. "I felt her sorrow that night. It was sharp at times. Once in particular. But there were moments where she felt more like herself."

He can only guess what that means, and he does not want to be right, because being right means that he will recall it over again. "She did not know about Salome," Cris says, collecting his tepid beer.

He probably was right. "Well of course not," Fox said softly. "She may have only been gone since January but her obsession started well before the New Year."

Cris nods. "Nor was I in the correct mind to speak of it." He lifts the bottle, but it slowly lowers. "I regret that. I regret a great deal of those months following the holiday season. Grief is not an emotion that I can weather well."

"Grief isn't meant to be worn well. Carried, maybe, to be looked at later, but it's ugly. I doubt she was in a place to hold it against you. Not telling her before, I mean. Though she might have had a different view on it, had things not happened as they did. She has some...strong feelings about not being told if someone she cares for has died." One thumb brushed over bruised knuckles where they hung between his knees.

"As would we all, I suppose," softly. He looks aside to the other man. "It's happened to her before, hasn't it?"

"Not being told? Or someone dying?" Giving in, he leans over for the last beer, the label shifting in his grip from the condensation.

Nodding, he sucks his own drink through his teeth.

Answers to both then. "There have been many deaths. Between the Southern Rebellion and the siege on Ravenhold...and all the time in between. Not being told...yes. There was a woman she once followed who kept losses from her, for example."

"For a strategic or a selfish purpose?" He leans to put his beer on the table. Lukewarm and flat, it holds very little appeal now.

Cap removed against the edge of the table, Fox brings the warming beverage to his lips for a slow pull. "It's always different, of course, when it's someone you let in. She tried not to let too many in. It would have devoured her." His face said the beer wasn't very appealing anymore, but he'd had worse in dirtier bars. "Bit of both, I suspect. Didn't want to admit her decisions were getting people killed. Didn't want to have Shae's ability to be her ‘wind demon’ compromised."

"I would think it would be prudent to be forthcoming with someone whom you know, for certain, could render you not but a pair of legs with a strong gust and an effort of will." He sits back in the chair, shrugging for the brief discomfort his choice brings down on his shoulders. "I did not want to tell her," he says, musing, "I do not want it to be true now. But at least-----" a dry chuckle. He pulls one hand down over his mouth, "------at least there is one less body that we must keep tabs on."

"She was younger then. Less aware of her own..." He grasped for a word, didn’t find it, settled for less. "...dominion. Amun showed her with Moira’s help, and later lost control of the manipulation." His expression darkened gradually in the seconds after Cris spoke. "You best not let her hear you speak of Salome that way. I don't believe you actually mean it, or else it wouldn't have derailed you for months, but you sound like a real prick right now if that's your attempt at black humor."

He frowns, first at Fox, then the stairwell leading up to the second level. For all that he's told Shae Salome did not belong just to him, he feels an abrupt lance of selfish possession that tastes like chlorine. It does not agree with him, he does not want to feel it at all, and it takes longer than he'd like to shake past it. "We can't all so easily weep and wallow." He rises from the chair, snatching his beer from the table. "Would you like another six pack?" heading around the back of the couch.

A snort shakes the shadow from his face. "You're joking right?" With a lean into the back of the couch, his eyes followed the lean scratch of moving black. His voice was easy, hiding nuances of 'I call bull****'. "You're trying to tell me you don't wallow in your hurts, featherbrain? That they haven't eaten bits of you that you hand feed them while you've kept them caged and in a corner?" In short, Fox wasn't buying it. "You may not open the door, but it doesn't mean the scent of it doesn't infest you. Infect you. That's a sort of wallowing too. When you live with the injury instead of letting it be healed." Bottle tilted to his lips. "I appreciate the offer, but no, unless you're going to drink I'd rather let this be the last for now."

He sneaks his free hand up under the lump of his hood, massaging the stretch of muscle between neck and shoulder. There's a weight there that he had not noticed before. Too much time at rest, perhaps, pressed into a chair no matter how briefly. He pours what's left of his beer in the sink, restrains the urge to turn on his heel and whip the empty bottle against the wall just to hear it shatter. Cris is halfway back to the hearth when he decides to answer, because leaving it alone will, and has, made situations like these worse. "Of course I'm joking," effort coloring his tone, its cadence uniform, each word placed carefully as grains of sand with a tweezers. "I know exactly where she would be, if things were different. For starters, she would have chastised the flesh from your bones for how you gave up following the dissolution of your contract." He drops his hand, and rolls his shoulders until something pops in his spine. It relieves some of the tension there, a direct result, he figures, from the discussion. "She would have been right here.

"Shall we not dissect each others' coping mechanisms?"

"Salome would have, I suspect you're right about that. And I'm sure Shae is disappointed in me for not reaching out to tell anyone when I thought she was dead." His shoulders rose and fell. "I'm sure Salome would have had some choice things to say to you, too, if she heard you say Shae was ‘one less body’ to keep track of." The mouthful of beer was flat, but it was something to wet his lips. "Shae has been my life. I didn't cope at all."

He lingers near the back of the couch, his right hip pressed to it. "In her darkest hours, her own personal brand of mood lightening could be atrociously toxic." But he starts to smile, "Likely, she would have said something along the lines of--------keep that **** up, and there'll be two bodies."

The fact that Cris hadn't yet given into the impulse to throttle the man lounging there was positive. Fox tipped his bottle in the Nephilim's direction at his theorized words from Salome. "Which is why I warned you to watch that sort of sentiment around her, featherbrain. She would take a piece out of you faster than you could blink for being disrespectful like."

He hums, thoughtful, choosing to perch there, instead. His gaze pans back to Fox from where it had been wandering the empty room. He doesn't say that every living being is allowed their own method of grief and consolation, Fox included. He could only imagine, grateful that he does not have tangible experience with, the soul-deep gouging removal of a piece of one's life. But he doesn't thank Fox either. "I'll keep that in mind."

Attention had previously been given towards the way Cris tried to adjust to the tension between his shoulders. A look that became a squint, trying to see what was just out of sight. Then he turned. Fox let silence spread, seeming perfectly comfortable in it save where his attention continued to flirt with the point on the wall he'd been staring at before Cris had arrived. In those moments where he wasn't putting on a smartass or charming facade, Fox embodied the picture of what Renaissance artists tried to capture in the impassive faces of heralding angels. Only he was selectively deaf to his own sermon, blind to his own portent. It was buried beneath bruise mottled skin, stolen memories, and a desire for atonement that was wholly human.

They were quite a pair. One Angel equivalent put down for his list of past discretions and one newly minted that had no idea just how close he'd come to the winged beings he admired. They were both smeared in the sludge of their emotions. Guilt and sorrow, and uncertainty. Cris quietly sucks his teeth, frowning against the deafening white noise of his own thoughts. He silences them when he speaks, "You know her better than the rest of us. Perhaps in the silence between you, you could pick up the investigation where she left off."

"I already have. Last week." Between drinking his guilt away and waiting for the punishment he thought he deserved, the man hadn't left things alone. "I was spotted at the storehouse when I went back to try and sniff out a trail to follow." Warm beer sucked past his teeth. "They set fire to the building while I was inside. I managed to break one of the windows and scramble out." Some of the bruises and scrapes on his fists weren't from other people's teeth, after all. "Unless you mean looking into her family? In which case I don't think so. Last thing she needs is to have to pry me out of the hands of a faerie after all she's been through."

Frowning, he looks over to Fox. "Some sort of pyrotechnic vengeance, maybe." Cianan had blown up their cave system, but that did not mean it was the only one. "I did mean that, as well, yes. At least when it comes to identifying the face you both saw. You need not make a deal with faeries to learn of them, though I'm sure it's easier if you do."

"Here's the thing. I can't fathom why that face would be here. The last time I saw it was before I met Shae, of that I'm certain. There's a hundred years and an entire world of distance between then and now. For all I know he's dead." Fingers tapped on the bottle in his hand. "And let's say that the Fae from there have a presence here. How to find them? The right ones?" There were a lot of Fae in town, and even more worlds of origin. "The Trickster, assuming he kept to the intention of the bargain, is gone. So who do I ask?"

He pulls a face, squinting at Fox for the counter argument the man presents. "How in the Angel's name am I supposed to know. Were you to have all the answers, it wouldn't be a suitable way to occupy your time, now would it? These people that have come to town, they are not gone. They may talk, if you catch one. It may be useless, it may not be. You won't know until you make the attempt, and that certainly beats becoming one with a couch, protected by empty bottles."

He drawled his reply after the last swig of beer, adding another stem to the barricade on the floor. "The questions were rhetorical. And they're why I went to the storehouse. All that's left are the watchers unless another faerie tips their hand." A grunt as he stood, hands on his knees for leverage. "Then come hunting with me. It's not something that should be attempted alone. That is, if Shae hasn't already recruited you for something similar. I don't want to get in her way if she's tracking them."

Cris shakes his head. "She hasn't. Not yet, at any rate. So far, the only thing I know for certain is that she's attempting to make sense of the maps I collected. She's been able to assign persons with colors. Looking at them myself was like filling out a sudoku grid in a language I'm unfamiliar with." His brows go up when Fox stands. "There was discussion of some sort of diversion, as well. Perhaps this will aid her own efforts, if we draw their attention to us."

"I'm thinking of returning to the storehouse. Maybe there's something the fire missed." Fingers from both hands went through his hair before they dropped to tug the leather jacket into place. He didn't bother to ask what 'sudoku grids' were, he was able to infer the meaning of ‘puzzle’ behind the association. "But what sort of diversion was discussed?"

"Shae theorizes that they are using a mirror like contraption for surveillance of the areas they've marked. The diversion was meant for them-----to trick their spies into seeing one thing whilst we all were doing another."

"Mirrors." Echoed with a look towards the rafters. "That...would make sense, yes. It would limit the number of sentries they would need to keep tabs on all the people they were tracking on those maps." Rough scrub at the stubble on his chin. "We need to catch one."

"Personally, I would like to see all those devices destroyed, but that may tip off the adversary too soon." He looks over to Fox, "Would you like this to remain a secret?"

"What?" Pulled from his musing by the question. "No. No, it doesn't need to be. Probably shouldn't be. Probably should let her know what we intend to do before we do it." He had visions of her yelling at him.

He nods, "I'm glad, because I would rather not keep anything else from her. Despite your reasons, it's impossible that she would be receptive to that." That doesn't solve the issue of actually telling her, however. He'd get there when he got there. Cris rises from the back of the couch. "The storehouse, yes?"

"Anything else? Have you been keeping something from her lately?" Curious glance and hands shoved into pockets. "Yeah, the storehouse. Whenever you're ready, I'll be here."

He gives Fox a flat look, "No. I meant only to say that I will not be adding an epilogue to yours. Give me an hour, yes? I will collect some things."
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Storehouse Ambush, Part 1

One Day Prior, May 10th, 2017

Text to Cianan: What are you doing today? I was going to see if you wanted to do a little scouting with me.

Text to Shae: I can do a bit of scouting, but only if we take it nice, and easy. Not getting in too deep, lest I have to hear a certain fur ball whining at me, and scratching at my door.

Text to Cianan: I'm not aiming to force a confrontation, and that's about as much of a promise as I can give you.

Text to Shae: I guess as much as I can take. I'll join you. Wanna meet me here? Or shall I meet you somewhere? Also, I'm probably going to be ready for action.. just in case, because we're terrible and draw trouble.

Text to Cianan: I can meet you wherever you are, give you time to get ready. Are you at the Inn?

Text to Shae: Yes. Should I just keep bathing until you get here? Or be prepared when you do? I can do either.

Text to Cianan: Do what you like, I'm the one disturbing your bath time. I can be patient if you want to soak more.

Text to Shae: I do want to soak more, but I'll still be ready when you get here.

Knock knock. Knuckles rapped against the door carved with arachnids some fifteen minutes later. The Sylph had come bearing gifts in the form of a cardboard drink container with fruit smoothies. It wasn't as good as wine, heck it wasn't even grape, but it was a peace offering for disturbing his late afternoon bath. The woman was wearing more practical clothing for the weather. Fitted pants tucked into boots, long sleeved shirt beneath and open sweater of grey. A wide black scarf hung loose on her neck.

Cianan would be waiting in his room, his clothes mostly on. Hip pouch, and weapons were stored in correct places. He was just waiting to do up the final buttons, and actually put on the rest of his clothes. He moved and opened the door slowly, checking to see who exactly it was before he opened it fully, "Hello, Shae. Almost good timing." The smile on his face showed he was lying a bit, but he hitched up his pants a bit more, and tugged the belt firmly.

"Hello to you, too." Slipping inside when he opened the door, shutting it with a nudge of her hip. "Almost?" One brow lifting as she looked him over. Head bending to capture one of the straws with her lips for a sip. "I can leave and come back if you want." Pointing at the door behind her with a smile that knew full well she couldn't time travel any other direction.

"Oh. No. No. It's fine." He sighed, tilting his head back, "I'm just so sorry for the delay." The pants were up, and hung on his hips, and now it was time to close up the shirt, button by button. Pausing, to speak. "Oh. You brought smoothies? How thoughtful of you. Thank you. Just what I needed to cool down. And, no need.. I'm almost done." His boots were already on, and all that. Odd way to get dressed, but he was Drow after all. They do stuff weird.

Her eyes followed his hands as he finished dressing. The order might be unique, but that was probably why it interested her. It made sense, in an odd way. Utility before comfort. "I did. It's a bit chilly out for them, but I had a craving." And lately, she'd been trying to indulge those when they happened. "I told you I'm more than willing to wait, you don't have to apologize to me."

"Oh, I know." He sighed, over dramatic, "But we really should get the show on the road, right? We have exploring to do?" He finished up the last button, and now, buttoned up his vest in a more proper fashion, pulling out of the lean, and giving her a bump on the hip, with his own to reach for a smoothie. Tugging everything into place, and making sure the cuffs he rolled into his sleeves were nice and crisp. He took a drink from the smoothie. "Okay. I think I'm ready to venture forth."

His constant sighing brought out an amused smile, and she surrendered the second mixed berry smoothie into his hands when he reached for it. They were topped with a layer of whipped cream and enclosed in clear plastic. He bumped her on the hip and she swatted him with the now empty drink holder. "You sure you're ready? Didn't forget a sock or something?" Another sip, the end of her straw much chewed on in the last few minutes. "Yes, some exploring. Mostly I want to get a look at the store house they were transporting people through. See if I can draw any conclusions or find anything that would help me locate any other staging points."

He sampled the smoothie, and smiled around the straw, "Ooh.. whipped cream." He needed that extra sugar, apparently! "What part of town was it in? Do you remember?" Wanted to be sure if he needed to grab something before he left.. a few switches around, "You have something for melee?" Just in case. Always. Just in case. She was wearing jeans and a scarf, he hadn't checked her out for weapons.

The whipped cream made it, or so she thought. At his inquiry into weaponry, she pointed down to the hilt of a knife sticking out of her boot and then waggled her fingers at him before curling them into a fist. The air shifted around her and there was a strange sensation of static. "Yes. It was near the warehouse district."

Right. He had given her a once over, that went down to about mid thigh, before going back up. "We seem to be good then." He moved in and pressed a kiss to her cheek, "I have some iron knuckles, I've been wanting to try out.. enchanted, too." Mm. Electricity spells were fun! "Walk, or Car?" The car was a bit flashy, and electric purple.

If it came down to it, she would bend the air into the summoned blade she rarely liked to use. Fox was the one more comfortable with a sword, but he wasn't here. "I'm not anticipating Faeries. The Collector's men were never Fae. The Fae were long gone from my world before he started recruiting." That said, knuckle dusters were knuckle dusters. "What are they enchanted with?" Reaching out, she fingered the edge of his vest. "Car I suppose. Though we can stop a ways away and walk the rest." It made little difference, given that she'd not been able to disrupt their surveillance yet.

"You never know" Cianan shrugged his shoulders, "I don't want to make plans just yet. Desperate means for odd allies. Especially if they're trying to get a food in the door here." He went for the straw on his smoothie again, and caught the underside of his nose with it. A brief retreat, and he got it. "Now that they're here.. they might have access to all sorts of weirdos." That was a concern. He paused when she caught his vest, and turned back to look at her. "Electricity." He'd answer the previous question, "They're enchanted with electricity.. to pop on and shock who you hit."

"Mm." Letting him go, she turned towards his door and reached for the handle. "You make a fair point. I don't like the idea of them networking. I would like to think that the faerie who held me was an outlier, but he said enough to know that it would be a foolish assumption." She kept waiting, especially after Beltane, for the Trickster's allies to make themselves known. "Electricity." She echoed the word and the edges of it made it clear that it wasn't one she had known prior to coming here. "I still can never decide if I like that word."

Cianan paused a bit at the top of the stairs, and offered his arm out to Shae. "Lightning?" He pursed his lips thinking if that was better. It had a nicer flow to it, for sure. "There are lots of evils here. Let's hope not.. but consider it a possibility. Lots of people looking for easy coin, can jump into any kind of horrid thing." He was happy to escort her down the stairs, "I mean.. Fae often like to trick and use people for their own ends.." He just liked to keep his bases covered, and that was hard to do with Fae.

Amiably, she linked arms with him as she nursed her smoothie. "What you call electricity to power the phones and teevees and lights here, my people knew as caged lightning. It wasn't as prevalent, but it was growing in popularity for the luxury of it. Alchemists, especially, were often experimenting with it." Soft, thoughtful frown for both the memory and his thoughts about mercenary reinforcements. "I can't fathom the motives of the Fae here, or why they would be inclined to get involved. If they are, in fact, from my world I can at least assume they care little about the fate of it."

He happily linked arms with her. "It's strange for me too. I spent a lot of time in the under dark.. then up here, then I started seeing a gradual increase in this sort of thing. Now, I have a phone?" He grumped, "I did used to have guns. Now I find them a bit too impersonal." Distance. No need to aim, so quick.. it just lacked the same finesse that driving your fist into someone's skull did. "Mm. I don't know. Those fae may in fact clash with some of the other Fae here. We might get a bit of a turf war going, along with all the allies they may find." Out the door, Cianan'd hold the door open for Shae, and open the car door for her as well.

"Guns. I still don't know much of anything about them. Save for awareness of their potential lethality." Out the door of the Inn and down the steps of the porch, she took a deep breath in the open air, mood improved. She held no fear of inside spaces, but something about being outside was calming. "Thank you." For the assistance with the door to the building and the car. She settled into the passenger seat and leaned over to unlock his side of the car. Rolling down her window became priority over buckling her seatbelt. "Depends on how long they've been here, and in what force. I'm beginning to wonder if the Fae from my world didn't all just come here."

As soon as the car was started, and the engine roared to life, Cianan lowered the windows for Shae. A gentle pat on the knee as well. Both hands on the wheel, and he'd take things slowly. "They're pretty terrible.. I mean, unless you're the one holding them. Crossbows that are half the size a few hundred times more powerful and easier to modify, and conceal. He might still have a gun on him, for the just in case. He'd make sure he had her seat belt on, too. Just because it made him feel better. "They could have?" Cianan offered unhelpfully, "We have no way to keep track of what comes in and out.. maybe the nexus itself does? Self regulates? I doubt it though. We get multiples of the same people, or creature far too often."

"I'm not sure how well my breeze could stand up to them and I'm not eager to test it out." She brought her right thumb to her lips, trapping the corner of the nail between her teeth to run her tongue over the jagged corner. "Mn." Hand fell back to her lap. "I don't like the thought of them taking guns back with them." Guns were just the edge of the problem. There were many things on this side of the Nexus that would drastically shift the balance for the worse. Buckled in, she watched the streets move past slowly. The smoothie fell victim to the gnawing anxiety in her stomach. Air through the straw was a noisy interruption.

"Let me know when I should stop." He'd keep the car moving at slow speed, obeying traffic laws, and all that junk. Ew. But, generally being a well behaved car person, even slowing down to let people merge and turn in. No rushes!

The breeze that lived with her had blocked its share of projectiles, but a bullet was so small and fast. Mentally, she made a note to look into arcane defenses for gunfire and then tried not to think about what it would feel like to be shot. She shook the remains in her cup to gather them at her straw for at least one more sip. "Let's go a little further southwest. Maybe a few more blocks. If Fox's memories are correct, the storehouse was close to the end of the docks."

Cianan nodded his head, turning a bit the direction she stated. "Let me take you to a gun range, so you can experience it first hand. Why I'm so afraid of them, and why I hate them being pointed at me so much." There were reasons, he tensed when someone touched a gun around him. "You don't have to like it, and we don't have to do it again after that, but it's good information to have." A small glance over, a parking lot in good distance, "I'm going to stop here. We can go on foot, or over rooftop, if you prefer." But, the ride was conspicuous.

"I would like that, the chance to learn I mean." The offer intrigued her, if only so she could better understand the threat. "We had guns back home, but they weren't..." Her fingers grasped for the right word, but she couldn't quite find it. "They were different. Lesser." It would have to do. She would prefer the rooftop, but she knew he wasn't as fond of heights as she was. Shae lifted the wide scarf to drape over her hair. It distorted her profile a little, but was little more than a placebo. "We can take the streets. I don't know what it looks like from above, anyway."

He was fine with running and walking on buildings. He loved floating under his own power, and even walking on ceilings. He just wasn't as much of a fan of flying. Especially when it wasn't under his own power. "Let's do it. We'll keep to alleys, see if we can spot the place from a distance, before we go hunting." Did that sound like a deal? He closed the car door behind him, and stretched out a bit, making sure his hips were nice and workable, in case he needed to go upside down, or do any odd agility maneuvers.

Stepping out of the car, Shae left the empty cup behind. Cianan was limbering up and she was looking around. Eyes towards nearby roofs as if she expected to see a glint of reflected light or the hunch of an observer. She stretched her arms upwards to elongate and loosen her spine and then walked around the car. "Sounds like a plan to me." Easy agreement to his suggestion. She wasn't sure if there would be anyone to hunt, but the thought brought a tingle to her fingertips.

"Whatever happens. Make sure you keep yourself safe." Cianan grumbled as he finished up his stretches. A quick check of his hip pouch to make sure it was still there, and he gave Shae a nudge of the arm and a smile. "Anything happens. Split up. Meet back here. If you aren't here by an hour after we split, I start looking for you." Better to have that plan now, than later. He'd already lost Shae once, he wasn't planning on doing so anytime again soon.

His precautions were logical, and he would find that she didn't argue with any of them. "This is information gathering, not an assault." She'd promised as much over texts earlier and she wanted it to stay that way despite the wild thing in the back of her mind that howled and raged for blood. She would be methodical. She couldn't afford to miss anything. Not under these circumstances. Her feet left the ground as she moved towards the nearby alley. The barest cushion of air between her footfalls and the pavement was all it took to make her a wraith.

"Indeed. It's why we have an escape plan, and not an attack plan." He waggled his eyebrows to Shae. Cianan's feet were naturally silent as he walked along, hands in his pockets. Casual. He was projecting casual. "Hm. Maybe I should have just invited you into my bath, and we could have saved ourselves all of this." too late now!

"You were the one who insisted on being ready by the time I got there," she reminded him with a smile and a side glance as she crossed one street to enter another alley. Evidence of commerce lessened here as the streets gave way to buildings designed for manufacture and storage rather than sales.

"I am the worst." Cianan lamented, tilting his head back with a small groan. There was a childish stomp of feet too, that wasn't audible. Another alley, and Cianan seemed to be at home in them, keeping his posture straight, instead of skulking. He belonged there, and that shouldn't be questioned. Let's see how long that would work out. Scaling fences, and dodging around things with ease.

Shae slowed as they drew near to the edges of the memory. But a scent was already assaulting her nostrils. Char. Smoke. "****." Shae stepped past the corner to stare at the space where the storehouse had been. What was left was a gutted, ruin of black soot and skeleton metal.

Cianan peeked out as well, frowning a bit as he stared at the skeleton of what was. He sucked on his teeth a bit, not saying anything. There was a small sigh there, before he started looking up, and around. It was too coincidental, and he was going to make sure there was no one around watching them. Again.

A fire would have had to rage and settle for at least a day to reduce the location to that state. Frustration lined her spine. He wasn't the only one searching the rooftops. Only she was about to do it close up. Irritated stalk took her to the nearest fire escape and she jumped for the ladder to try and bring it down.

Cianan placed his feet on the wall, and walked up it a ways, before grabbing the fire escape, and pulling it down for Shae, "Here." He couldn't really carry anyone going up walls, it took a bit of focus, weapons and crossbows were enough.

Tight nod of thanks saw her start to climb. She needed the space of the motions, the repetitive grip of metal, to help her lock down the simmer of agitation in her. When she gained the roof it was empty. She immediately began looking around.

Cianan would time his ascent with hers, reaching up to grab the ledge and pull himself over at roughly the same time. Now, with a brass knuckle on his wrist. He dropped down into a crouch, and started to listen.. what Shae couldn't see, maybe he could hear.

There were signs that there had been passage across the roof. Something that had been there mounted on the edge, had been removed. Bright metal where the bolts had scraped away at the weather worn ledge. Two roofs over, a figure broke and ran while Shae's focus was on those markings.

Cianan blinked, hearing the running and spotting the figure. "Shae. Hold on here. Listen for me.." He was now off and sprinting as well. Looking for ways to close the gap between them, he could cross gaps in buildings like no one's business, this was his preferred travel method. Being small on the ground meant he had to deal with big things. Being up high, meant that every now and again he'd run into Saila and that was about it.

"What?" She turned but he was already off and running. "Cianan!" One hand reached out and then she was cursing. The woman shifted from foot to foot, tempted strongly to tear off after him now that she saw the figure he was pursuing in the distance.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Storehouse Ambush, Part 2

Cris and Fox, One Hour After Their Conversation in the Inn, May 11th, 2017

Something was wrong from the start. Less than six blocks away from the storehouse was a new crime scene. Part of the street had been cordoned off near the sidewalk. A tarp covered a lump of body and the guard were gesturing up towards the roof. The words 'suicide' and 'parkour accident' were being bandied about, the clash made it evident that the investigators still weren't sure what exactly had happened. One thing was for sure, the way the fire escape hung bent near the top of the building suggested the fall had had at least one bump on the way down. Fox halted back behind the lines with a low curse, nostrils flaring wide.

The hour he'd taken had been to load the rest of an unseen arsenal. Gear under his shirt, with the thickness of his coat worn over it, despite the good weather. There is only one seraph blade resting in the covert sheath over his right shoulder. He brings with him the sharper tang of char, emanating from a collection of runes cut into the narrow space between Marks he already possesses, but Fox does not seem to be troubled by that. He observes the crime scene with faint surprise. It's been some time since he's witnessed something so inherently familiar. His gaze follows the building up to the roof, along the bent ladder of iron. "What is it?" asking as he looks from one rooftop to another.

"The storehouse is not far." Nod of his head in the direction they were headed. There was something more. His face said as much as he tried to push concern back. "Shae...Shae came this way yesterday. She was angry. Really angry. I thought that she must have seen the aftermath of the fire. She left not long after, riding close to an edge. I didn't think much more of it, but..." Gold eyes rested pointedly on where a medical examiner was lifting the corner of the tarp across the street. "What if she was angry for another reason?"

"Have you any clue as to why she was so angry?" Though, perhaps they were looking at it. Finding evidence of those that had held her prisoner wasn't going to make her happy. He dips his hand into his coat, searching for the stele he'd tucked away, "Perhaps if we looked closer."

Treating the question as a given, Fox drew back with a nod and angled his steps towards an alley that would cut over to the next block so that they could avoid the rest of the milling crowd. When at last they approached the area where the storehouse was a few minutes later, Fox began to slow down. Heavy on the air was the scent of char. Wood char, not flesh char. Just up the street, the burnt out husk of the storehouse stretched black bones towards the sky.

He didn't have a plan on what he was to do with the stele once he had it, but he feels inherently better now with its thin weight between his fingers. Pulling back with Fox, he follows after the other man, keeping his gaze on the budding crowd of onlookers and the rooftops surrounding them. His senses are not as keen as Fox's, not without runic aid. On the way, he tilts his head to the left, turning the crystal clear tip of the stele against his throat over a thick black Mark already there. With its molten fissures cooling to black, what details had once been distance to his eyes are brought into focus with a clarity that rivals arm's length.

The place where the storehouse had been was little more than black timber and ash over broken glass and twisted metal. It looked like it had suffered quite the inferno. The buildings nearby, however, were largely unscathed. A focused burn, kept in check by property owners who got wise to the importance of fire proofing by means both mundane and magical. There had been enough fires in the marketplace to make it an insurance nightmare, otherwise.

Of note, also, was a fire escape ladder that had been left down in an alley across the street. Cris' enhanced observation would be able to see a collapsed shape on the level of the metal structure just below the roof.

He keeps the stele in his hand, switches it to his left, however, to keep his dominant one free, as they move. He does not know what he's looking for, what these mirrors might look like if he sees one, if he can even see one through what protections are likely overlapped upon them.

He squints when he notes, still some distance away, the state of the ladder and its lumpy rung near the rooftop. He jogs a pace and a half to catch up to Fox, gesturing toward what he sees with a nod of his head. "Is there any chance that she may have beaten us to this investigation?"

"I told you I felt her in this area yesterday." Just a few blocks ago, at that. It wasn't a drawl, there was too much paranoia in him to be sarcastic or mocking. "So yeah, it's possible." Neither one of them had gone out of their way to check. They had agreed to tell Shae, it was just unspoken agreement that it would be after their own look about. Fox knew Shae was currently fine. At least, he could still feel her.

Cris' gesture had him peering in the same direction. Then he was moving towards the ladder. The shape on the upper deck didn't move. "If she saw the storehouse, she may have checked the nearby building rooftops for signs of people watching the location." The street was quiet, most of the buildings here used for storage with less foot traffic as a result.

"Somehow, I do not think of her as one to leave evidence of her passage so openly, but doing so could also have been done to serve as a grim warning to those that are left. Or, it's a trap." Quiet streets filled to the brim with storehouses earned them privacy. Shady dealings tended to be done in such distracts for that very reason. Warehouses were nothing more than big, empty spaces to store things one didn't want seeing the light of day. "Which would you like to take, the remains, or-------the other remains," gesturing at the ladder across the street.

He was still trying to decide if the dead body a ways back was just a bad coincidence. He'd drawn closer to the ladder but frowned. "You climb. I'll go..." Gesturing towards what was left of the storehouse. "That good with you?"

Cris nods, "You were meant to burn with the building, they may not be expecting your return so soon." He tucks the stele safely into his coat to free his hands, then takes Fox's position near the ladder instead. Looking it over a moment first, he starts up.

The man backtracked a little before crossing the street and approaching the burnt out wreckage with caution. Meanwhile, Cris would find the ladder gave way to a platform at every other story. Where it approached the top one, the smell of decay was starting to filter out into the air.

There was a body there, deceased less than a day, by best estimate. He wore plain dark clothing and leather in muted shades of brown. Blood had dried against the back of his head and there were marks of electrocution evident on his exposed skin.

He pauses at each landing to look it over for signs of anything out of place: scraps of clothing, smears of dried blood, broken components of a spell forgotten once it had been used. He grunts for the odor halfway up, holds his breath and firms up his mouth against it. He passes the body by only to give the roof a onceover from behind its ledge, before he joins the body in its resting place to inspect it.

The roof beyond, should he peek his head up, held two more bodies. One in a dark puddle, the other dry. The body on the escape landing had two points of injury. The one to his chest was without sign of physical impact, it was an epicenter of an electrical strike that had hit him square on and burned up a good bit of his shirt. The back of his skull, however, had the hallmarks of blunt trauma to go with the fried flesh. The curve and shape of the marks suggested knuckle dusters. That much electrical damage to a cracked skull had likely been what killed him.

Cris squints at the damage upon the body's skull. Blood burned black and caked around some splits in the scalp, bunched together close enough to suggest a fist. He grips a hold of the body's shoulder and hauls it up so that he can see its face, to tell what kind of being it is, and its front, giving him a clear view of the point of impact of what could only be a lance of electricity, a bolt of lightning. The tip of his tongue pokes a lump in his cheek. When he rises, letting go of the body, his cautious frown evening out, threatening to turn up at the corners, sharp and crisp as needle points, in admiration. He finishes the climb up the roof and hauls himself over its ledge to inspect the other two corpses left behind.

Across the street, Fox was surveying the perimeter of the plot, looking for any signs of passage other than his own hasty escape from the building. If he'd found anything yet, he wasn't sharing. He wasn't about to go yelling across that distance and he didn't have Shae's way of throwing his voice.

The first corpse, at a glance, might look human. Surgical scars revealed the ears were not naturally rounded. This was an elf. Or had been. Up on the roof, the body closest to hand was lying in a pool of his own blood. The cause of death quite clearly a crossbow bolt through his temples. These two were dressed in a similarly nondescript fashion to the man he'd already inspected. Oddly, none of them appeared to have weapons or any unique items on them. There were signs that they might have carried once: straps with empty scabbards, but their equipment had been picked through. A char mark on the roof adjacent might have been where the other victim learned about conductivity.

The last body was outwardly unharmed on first inspection. Closer look revealed eyes bulged and a rictus of fear with mouth open. Broken blood vessels in his eyes, blood in his mouth.

His gaze scrapes along the roof as he heads toward the second body, crouching close but not inside the pool of blood. He inspects it the same way he had the first, paying attention, this time, to its ears just in case it had suffered the same mutilation as the other did. Locating the wounds in the body's head, he twist-pulls the projectile free and holds it up, his fingertips stained rusty. He murmurs the Drow's name to himself, tosses the bolt onto the back of the fallen body and heads toward the third. Lingering there, he looks over the roof again, putting together his own theory of what happened, then looks back to the body, his frown tightening at the pure terror immortalized on its face. He digs the toe of his boot under the corpse's shoulder and kicks it over.

These other two were human. No mutilation of features evident. The one the bolt had dropped was larger, but both showed the muscular definition one might expect a soldier to carry. There was evidence that the roof had been traveled over in recent days. Scuff marks, including some that fled towards and returned from the direction of the crime scene they had passed along the way there.

With one hand behind the collar of his coat, Cris scratches the line of his collarbone as he heads back toward the ledge. If the culprits really are Shae and Cianan, and he has little reason to believe otherwise, he does not think they'd left anything behind. Clues left on these bodies will help Shae track more down in the long run. They would have taken anything of even minor importance. He climbs down, intent on meeting up with Fox at the ruins of the storehouse.

Before Cris climbs down, one more thing catches his eye. On the metal coated ledge of the building's corner, there is evidence of drill holes and something that had recently been bolted there, if the twisting scrape of brighter metal against weather corrosion was any indication.

He frowns at the collection of holes drilled into the ledge, runs his fingertips across them, as he shoots a look over one shoulder, than the other, down upon the street below. He gives the fissure gouged through oxidation one last look, then continues on his way down. When he reached the second to the last level, he swings his legs over the guardrail and drops the twenty feet left to the ground. He lands with a quiet crouch and settling of metal and leather.

When Cris caught up with Fox, the man was doing his level best not to breath in through his nose. There had been metal cages inside the building, but heat had twisted them out of shape. Of the transport circle there was no sign. Most, if not all, of the physical evidence had been burned up. Though there hadn't been very much to start with. "Find anything?" Asked in a quiet, nasal tone.

"Aftermath," he says, tips his head away from the ruins and the building he'd inspected across the street. "Three bodies. There's evidence of physical and magical force. We theorized Shae's arrival, I think that theory has been proven. From what I saw, it looked as though they were taken by surprise. What I presume was the first victim appears to have been suffocated, but there was no evidence of strangulation. The second, further away, a closer distance to the edge, was shot through the head with a bolt from a crossbow, and the third was smote by a blow to the head and a surgical strike of electricity. Like lightning. That last pitiful creature is the one we saw. The corpses have been stripped of anything useful, it looks like."

"There was something else, too," looking back. "Something has been removed from the edge of the roof, something that too effort to attach there in the first place, hastily ripped free. They may have found a tool of surveillance when they were here."

Cris described the first victim and Fox tensed. Jaw clenching he restrained the urge to scream in frustration while the Nephilim worked through the rest of the information. He asked a few careful questions as he began to back away from the ruins. "Crossbow? She wasn't alone, then. She hasn't used a crossbow since...well, I doubt it was her, anyway. You said 'they' so I guess you doubt it was her too." He was looking towards the roof across the street. In truth he'd smelled death from the bottom of the ladder. Still, he lingered on one death in particular. "Anything else about that guy who suffocated?"

"No, I do not believe she was alone. The bolt looked like one of Cianan's." He puts his fists in the pockets of his coat, squinting first at Fox, then the fire escape he'd dropped from. "A ruddy discoloration, congealed blood in his mouth. His eyes looked mere moments from erupting either within themselves, or completely out of his skull. Most of their white were red." He looks back to Fox, "Why?"

Grunt of acknowledgement for Cris' assessment. There was some small relief that she hadn't been roaming around by herself, but that was soon faded. He hadn't wanted to consider that the rage he'd sensed had led to the sort of event Cris was describing. It could have been a particular spell, he told himself. "I need to see him." If it was the spell, he'd be able to sense the residue and put his mind at ease. He was headed for the ladder he'd avoided earlier.

That isn't a clarification. He squints after Fox, turns and follows him back to the building. "What of you, was there anything left?"

Fox began climbing. "Nothing tangible, but I'm fairly certain that the fire was magical in origin. It spread too quickly and burned to brightly. I couldn't taste or smell any accelerators that I know of." His voice faded as he moved, skipping the occasional rung, until he gained the roof.

He does not join Fox on the roof completely, boots on the third rung down, his arms crossed on the edge of the roof. He splits his attention between the other man and in the direction of the crime scene.

He detoured around the man with the bloody bolt on his back and went straight for the suffocated man. Carefully squatting by the body, he raked his sight over it. Hoping for any shred of lingering aura. There was nothing. Heavy sigh saw him tilting his head back to look at the sky. After a moment of silent supplication for patience, he turned and headed back towards the Nephilim. "Well. Cianan might be dead." Even as he said it, he doubted it. Shae felt too...stable.

Fox brings him back. His head whips around. He blinks, firmly, brows going up. "I beg your pardon?" He finishes the short climb and joins Fox on the roof. "What do you mean, what in the Angel's name happened?"
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Shae Stormchild
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Storehouse Ambush, Part 3

Cianan and Shae, One Day Prior, May 10th, 2017

The figure was swift, it was clear that he was familiar with the rooftops. He led Cianan on a merry chase, further and further away from the ruins of the storehouse.

Cianan was familiar as well! Snarling a bit as he pushed on, leaping pretty quick, he was considering grabbing the gun from his hip pouch and opening fire. A small pause. He was getting drawn away.. he skidded to a stop. It wasn't important, he could chase him down, but the energy expenditure might not be worth it. He slid on the roof and watched.. checking back to look at Shae, and started to back up.

Cianan was gaining, the man he chased taking choices that were poor. Looking back showed Shae hadn't been left alone. The woman stood with hands outstretched and crackling with electrical arcs that jumped from finger to finger back on the roof. The light shrouded her in blue while three figures had joined her on the expanse. One was already prone, twitching and writhing with smoke rising from his back, while the other two circled warily.

Cianan would wait, turning back towards the man, still close by, and cast darkness on him, right before he jumped to the next roof. Maybe that would take care of him. Shae, he was heading back towards her, full speed. He was silently cursing himself out, for taking the quick bait, and now he'd draw the hand crossbow, to take aim while moving, it might be a building before he can be in range, though, unless he wanted to take a wild shot.

Cianan would be satisfied to hear a shout of alarm at the unexpected darkness that dropped on his quarry. The runner hit the side of the next building rather than the roof he was aiming for. Several short impacts later, he was a pile on the ground. Ahead, Shae lunged after one of the circling figures, it darted back while the other lashed a whip at her. The length snaked around her arms and the crackle in her fingers sputtered out.

Well, hell. That wasn't good. Cianan had his crossbow aimed. Silent running, he wasn't sure how much stealth he actually had there, but as soon as he lined up a shot, he fired, aiming for a head. He was staying quiet! Once the fire shot, he'd throw up a faerie fire on the one with the whip on Shae, to hopefully distract them!

They had counted on their associate drawing the Drow away, and so the bolt hit home on the man Shae had been lunging for, his attention having been centered on the Sylph. He dropped with a new cranial piercing and Shae turned on the one who held the whip. Rather than pull against the tangle of corded material, she stepped into the tug to loosen it. Enough to let her get her hands on the man who had panicked in the moment the faerie fire illuminated him. He shouted as her fingers closed on his collar and the sound cut off abruptly, as if swallowed. He froze and she was....kissing him? No. Not quite. He was paralyzed and her open mouth hovered near his face, pulling the air from his lungs.

"Shae!" Cianan called out! Hissing a bit as he skidded to a halt, his hand crossbow out. Ooh, then wincing as he saw the man suffocate.. he didn't want to imagine the popping of lungs. "I'm sorry.." He tossed the hand crossbow to the ground, unloaded. The steel knuckles still on.

The man she'd managed to shock in the first exchange was just picking himself up off the flat of the roof past where Shae was sucking the life out of the whip assailant. He took one look at the crumpled figure and then noticed the Drow. He made a break for the fire escape.

Shae's head tore up and away from that lethal inhale at the sound of her name. Eyes darting towards Cianan, devoid of their usual golden color to be replaced with a stark white. The body in her grip was a limp weight and she, shuddering, dropped it.

"Got him." He wasn't going to move that far away again. He was streaking after the guy, again, throwing another darkness around that guy. It'd be hard for him to see the that fire escape in pitch blackness. Cianan could stalk easily after that, listening, able to go through the darkness without problem, and silently as well. "Strawberry Shortcake." A crackle of electricity would hit the air, and he'd swing the iron knuckles at the man.

Unlike the previous quarry who had been lost to the descending darkness, this target ran right through. He was at the top of the ladder when Cianan and his sparking fist caught up with the back of his head. Shocked for a second time, the man collapsed onto the top level of the escape, spasming.

The darkness was pinned on the man, Cianan scowled a bit when he almost ran through magical darkness. Son-of-a.. He snorted, and looked back at Shae, "You good?" A quick check in. "There's one down there, don't know how long he's down for." He doubted Mr. Collapsed Lungs would be talking.

Mr. Collapsed Lungs and Mr. Bolt to the Head were not in a talking mood. Neither was Mr. Missed His Jump. That only left the twitching, frothing figure on the fire escape if they wanted to question anyone. Though a shock to the skull didn't bode well for his conversational skills in the near future. Shae was shaking, pupils wide in the midst of white, but her voice sounded steady. "I'm fine. Just...maybe don't touch me for a little bit."

Cianan nodded his head, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have left.. I didn't hear. He was going to move over to the edge of the building, and pat it down. They didn't need to touch, they could still sit close. He just wanted to get answers so badly, and that was the mistake, all that talk of staying calm, and he jumped at the first chance. "You need anything?"

Shae settled on the ledge carefully and resisted the urge to swat him. She could feel her skin as if it were crackling. "Don't apologize," she insisted. "You didn't hear, I didn't hear. Neither of us did. I would have gone tearing after him myself if you hadn't beaten me to it." At the moment she was focusing on the way her blood was thrumming in her ears. Her pupils were still blown, her system riding on a high of energy that demanded release somewhere.

"...Do we have to go pick him up off the sidewalk?" Cianan made a face, "You probably would have been better taking the runner." He turned and gave her a small smile, thinking she could have just blown him off the side of the building, or given him a sudden downdraft. "So. They kind of set a trap for us." Cianan grunted, "Two fold." A rabbit to run and get a chase going while others stayed behind. He didn't like that, "Chocolate?" Something to get her brain focused on something else, also, his own.

"Hm? Pick who up?" She didn't know what had happened to the runner. She'd been a bit busy. "Oh you mean...oh." Fingers came up to scrub through her hair. The scarf had fallen some time ago to her shoulders. "I suppose they did, but that's what makes them the Collector's hunters." And the thought made her frown deeply. "I need to disrupt however they have been watching us. A trap for me is one thing. I don't want them...I can't bear the thought of them..." Shae didn't think it would be long before they started looking for other people to leverage her compliance. Where her fingers pressed into the ledge, black marks were spreading.

"What?" The mention of chocolate disrupted her train of thought and she looked over at him, confused. Chocolate? "What about choc--" She cut herself off and leaned back slightly.

He reached into his hip pouch and brought out a bar of chocolate. Distracting the train of thought is, exactly what she needed. Obsessing, would cloud thoughts, make people see things that weren't there. Drow behavior, having to jump at every shadow. Cianan didn't want that for her.

"Look. I'm usually fine. Most of my places are warded. I'll avoid the ones that aren't. Even my Inn room is warded." He really didn't like people knowing where he was, though he was doing his best to tone that down, to prevent worrying Shae about it more. "Also, the apartment Fox is in, his warded." As long as he stayed inside. Maybe he'll go make Fox a drop off of booze... and he really hoped Fox wasn't bringing people home. Mental note. Check on Fox, just.. in general.

Her eyes narrowed as she considered the chocolate bar. "I'm not having an imbalance of sugar." The statement was mildly exasperated, but there was affection lurking beneath it. She tried to calm her breathing as she listened to him. Wards. Yes. He was safe where there were wards. Fin had wards. And Lucy. Cris...she'd have to find out. "Fox is back at the Inn." Shae knew only because she could feel where he was. Projecting his hang dog regret at her. He'd left Cianan's apartment much like he said he would, but not until he'd cleaned it up for the Drow.

"Nah. It's a good distraction though. Better than a beer. Easier to carry, too. No worries about getting shaken up while I'm jumping around like an idiot." He drew out some reese's cups, and offered them over to Shae. Blathering on a bit to further distract her from obsession.

Well, good. That'd make Cianan happier, he was happy to offer Fox a space to stay, but it was also intruding on one of his safe spots while Fox was not in a good place, it was a conflicted sort of feeling. He'd still have to move, that that was for his own personal paranoia.

Relenting, she took the package from him carefully and opened it. Everything felt heightened. Each emotion, each sound. She'd experienced it before, but she was never quite prepared for the reality of that particular method of taking a life. She focused on the chocolate with closed eyes. "What about him?" Nodding in the direction of the fire escape.

"He fell." Cianan smacked his hand into the ledge of the building, and raspberries, "Not going to get any good information out of him, unless you can talk to the dead." Taking a life? Never seemed to be a problem for Cianan. At this point, it was old hat. Lifetimes of it.

"Not a cleric." She might arrange such a thing, with effort, but at the moment all she was trying to do was center herself. "The one you just chased fell too?" Damn. She sighed. The fact that the man was dead didn't phase her. It was the method. That was something else.

Cianan's darkness was off at this point, and he'd check the fire escape to see how the one he punched was doing. "I would have kept him alive, but, I saw I got duped. Easier than having him come back.. gotta keep making the enemy bleed resources. Get's 'em desperate." Wars of attrition, and all that, soon, they'll either run out of people, or he'll have to pay to get, make or capture more to use, leads to less funds to use elsewhere.

The one he punched was out cold, but breathing with a guttural finality. His face sagged on the one side and now and then his limbs twitched. "I'm not mourning the loss. As I said before, they don't belong here." Glacial savagery lingered in her tones, warmed only by the taste of chocolate on her tongue. "Four less is four less."

He stretched his hand out for her, palm up. "Yeah." Softly. He wouldn't agree or disagree with her sentiment it was just a thing. "You doing alright?" He doubted they'd get anything out of Mr. Twitchy. It was better to take care of their own at this point.

Shae stood, but she was careful not to touch him. "I might hurt you," she said by way of apology for not taking his hand when he offered it. "The..." Looking over her shoulder, she gestured towards the man whose breath she had taken. "There are side effects."

"Oh?" Cianan leaned to give himself a better view of the person on the floor, "Do tell!" Oddly, he seemed excited to learn about something like, this, and something like Shae. He turned to look at her, more out of wonder than anything else.

"Can we...maybe...get off the roof first? I'll tell you, I swear, but I don't want to be here anymore." Managing a hesitant smile, Shae looked down over the edge of the roof. Getting down was always easier. "It's not exactly a short explanation."

"Let's go. You can tell me on the way back." Cianan stepped onto the ledge, and dropped off suddenly, his feather fall catching him part way, to drift him slowly down to the ground. Always so much easier!

No gasp of shock from Shae to see him step out into open air, she was following after Cianan in very similar fashion. Legs up and over the ledge to drop into the alley below. Like the step down was a single foot descent instead of dozens of them. She shoved her hands in her pockets and kept her elbows in as she started back the way they came. The wrapper from the candy crinkled empty in her closed fist.

"You going to be good to ride in the car? Or should we walk a while, and come back for it?" It didn't matter to him, but they'd be in a lot closer confines in the car, and if she was afraid, he didn't want to take a corner to quick and put them both at risk.

She stopped mid stride and considered the way she felt. Lawless city though it often seemed, there were dead men back there and even if those on the roof went undiscovered a while, the one that had been dropped would draw attention soon. "The car." She decided and was moving again. "I can sit in the back." Barring some particularly crazy driving antics on his part, the displacement should keep him safe.

"Understood." He paused to give her a smile, something calm, in the turbulence. He understood, at least some of it. Some of it, just washed over him. He had his own worried, but right now, like Shae he displaced them for someone else. They were heading back to the car, and so help him, if anything happened to his car, he'd eat a face. Literally.

If anything happened to his baby of a car, Shae would certainly feel bad. Really bad, I'm sure. Which is why, after they reached it and he opened the door, she touched as few things as possible when she climbed into the back seat. Buckling in was done as swiftly as possible before hands delved back into her pockets. She made it into the vehicle and nothing exploded. Exhale of relief. Her control was better than she remembered.

"Back to the Inn, or Church House?" Cianan would check back in, after letting them both into the car. He was making sure she had enough room, and didn't mind giving her what space she needed. "Or to one of my places?" All the options. He'd start the car, and get things rolling, she could make up her mind at any time.

"Nnn. Church House or one of your places." The Inn was just a bad idea. Fox was there and she'd never hear the end of it. Already she could envision his disappointment in her. "I need to ground myself. Or take a swim." She fidgeted, bouncing one leg in agitation. Some color was returning to her eyes, but only just a faint layer of gold dust where white had been dominating.

"Will a shower do?" Cianan was heading to one of his place, then. Easy. Off the map places to park the car to keep it out of sight from magical and non-magical sources. "I'll make some food when we get back, so you have something when you get done." It was a bit tub.. or at least, wide.

"I'll try it, if you promise to stay clear of the bathroom." She sat back, not really paying attention to where he was taking them. Unlikely to take note until he parked the car. There was a hum in the air trapped inside his car. It smelled of ozone.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 10:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Storehouse Ambush, Part 4

Cris and Fox, May 11th, 2017


A frown had cut deep into Fox's face. "Shae did something she promised me she wouldn't do. Is what happened." Thumb jerked towards the man who he'd been investigating. "A kill like that...it's different." He was hesitating, he'd said too much in his frustration and now he was struggling. "It's a Sylph thing, and it makes her a bit...volatile. Dangerous to touch, actually, until she can do something about it. She's essentially a live wire for a little while." It was the truth minus some of the details. He scrubbed at his face with both hands. "She knows better."

"Does she know this will happen to her, if she does?" Turning, he looks down at the corpse left on the level closest to the roof. "Perhaps that explains this one's death, if she did. Spent the rampaging energy to prevent this one from escaping."

"Yes, she does." It probably sounded illogical of her, but there was another facet he thought Shae should be the one to explain. "Maybe." He offered, though without real confidence. "Text Cianan, would you?" Fox didn't have a phone.

"Have you not been back to see him at all?" He reaches into the other side of his coat to produce his phone, frowning before he even reaches the contact list, not entirely confident he even has the Drow's number. He hadn't had reason to before now. "She would not lie if I asked her."

"Not for a few days." And this seemed to have happened yesterday. "I've been at the Inn." Waiting. "I suppose you could try her instead, but I'm not optimistic about the life of her phone if she's still charged."

"Is she able to touch anything in this state? I've one other method of communication open to me." He looks up, thumb poised over the contact list that puts Shae right beneath Senka. He scrolls a fraction upward so that Salome's name is no longer on the screen.

"Yes. She can. There's a degree of control when she's focusing." He just wasn't sure it extended to her phone. They'd never tested that. Mainly because she wasn't supposed to be doing that. "Just try her." Maybe he was worried for nothing.

Frowning, he replaces his phone then pats himself down. He finds a crumpled receipt one of his coat pockets. "Have you anything-----no, nevermind, I've found something." He smoothes the receipt flat on his leg and scrawls a short note with the broken pencil he'd found with his lighter. He needed to clean out his coat. The note reads: Are you all right? Is Cianan? Then he takes the stele from its sling, and draws a small rune in the corner of the paper. It burns away to ash in his fingertips.

Fox's attention was split between Cris' impromptu missive making and the roofs that surrounded them. He felt watched in a way that had him rubbing a hand at the back of his neck. "We need to get off the roof." Even if he was just being paranoid, neither of them really wanted to deal with answering questions about the trio of bodies in their immediate vicinity. "And we should probably get out of here."

Cris nods, dedicating a section of his mind to stowing away any inevitable anxious impatience. He nods for Fox's suggestion, swings his legs over the ledge and starts the climb down. "Have you any other locations you'd like to check?"

The redhead wasn't far behind. "At present?" Yes, miles of rooftop. But if Shae and Cianan had been ambushed here, the likelihood of other traps only grew. "No. I think I'd prefer to wait for a response to your message." More waiting. It was all he did these days.

"All right." He leaps the rest of the way to the ground when, once more, he reaches the second to last level of the fire escape. The landing sents a solid jolt through his lower body that feels good more than it irritates.

"You break your ankles, I'm not going to carry you." He found his drawling humor a ready defense for his anxiety over what his bonded may have done. He took the long way down. He'd been so detached from his own nature, that he displaced all similar joy in such falls firmly into the realm of Shae's instinctual desires and not his own. His feet found the ground and he cast a sideways look at Cris. "Do you feel drag when you jump like that?"

"Thank the Angel that it takes a great deal more than that to do so." Frowning for Fox's question, because he can't figure out the source of it, he shoots a look back over his shoulder as they head away from the building. "No. Gravity affects me as it affects all things."

"Gravity doesn't affect all things equally, though." Hands shoved in his pockets, Fox was making the trek back to the Inn by cutting a path through the city streets that was different than the one they had taken to reach the storehouse.

They hadn't discussed whether he was to accompany Fox or not, their continued discussion seems to do that for them. He feels better about it, at any rate. "What makes you suspect that it would affect me differently, then?"

"You're still too skinny looking. Maybe you're bird boned now in addition to being a featherbrain." Deflection. A shrug. And another side eye. "Maybe you just look like it." Fox stretched then, bringing his arms out to his sides with a grunt and then out in front of him with fingers locked and palms pushed outward.

Cris' phone received a message.
Text from Shae: Yes, I'm fine. He was in one piece last I saw him.
Text from Shae: Are you alright? What's the matter?

"I shall take skinny to your drunkenness." A spurt of vibration buzzes against his chest. Startled, he blinks and produces his phone from an inner breast pocket, quieted in the off chance this task required stealth. "I assure you, I do not float." He unlocks the screen with a series of taps from his calloused thumb. "She's fine," he reports. "And so is Cianan, and her phone, apparently." He looks up at Fox.

Relief tempered his concern and let it slip into something else entirely. "That so? Text her back. Ask her if she's kissed anyone and meant it, lately." What? He seemed serious. There was a hardness at the bottom of his suggestion.

For a full eight beats, all he can do is stare at Fox, his thumb poised over the screen. It goes dark after the stretch of inaction. The enquiry itself may have been absurd if it wasn't for the cutting edge to Fox's tone, a faint smear of knowledge, perhaps accusation. "You think that is how she suffocated that man."

There were multiple possible meanings, and maybe even he meant some of them together. "Just wanted to see if you would. It'd mess with her, coming from you." Brief spit of vindictive desire acknowledged with a mumble. "She says she's fine, so...maybe not."

Then the lopsided grin was back. "Don't fret, if her kisses could actually do that a few people would be dead."

He squints at Fox, puzzled, then determined to march past the other man's inappropriate ribbing, then taps out a message back so that Shae is not left hanging.

Text to Shae: I happened upon Fox at the Red Dragon.
Text to Shae: We returned to the destroyed storehouse, but we also discovered some peculiar leftovers.
Text to Shae: Well done.

A few seconds later
Text to Shae: At least the one body was.

Cris rolls his eyes, "I'm not worried. I'm certain she'll tell me what happened if I speak to her myself."

"Did you actually ask her?" Craning his neck to the side to try and get a glimpse of the screen as Cris prodded at it with his thumb, smirk growing on his face.

Text to Cris: The storehouse was already destroyed.
Text to Cris: The leftovers were an ambush.
Text to Cris: You should come by sometime soon.

There was a pause, and Fox's smirk fled as he caught the latest message:

Text to Cris: Tell Fox I'll talk to him Saturday.

Text to Shae: He mentioned that the attempted destruction happened while he was still inside.
Text to Shae: I will. Both of them.

He locks the screen and stuffs his phone away in his coat, looking over at Fox. "This is what you were striving toward, yes?"

"Yes." The rest of the walk was quiet.
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Shae Stormchild
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2017 10:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Storehouse Ambush, Aftermath

Cianan's Apartment, May 10th, 2017

Somewhere on the drive, Shae had figured out what she could do to alleviate the build up that was thrumming in her veins. So it was that she found herself sitting in a bath at one of Cianan's many apartments, leaning over the side with a handful of pearls clutched in wet hands above the floor and an empty velvet pouch. Normally it would have taken days to enchant each one. Exhausting days.

Shae had insisted he stay clear of the bathroom, not because of the pearls, but rather because of the way city water with all its impurities was a damn fine conductor and she was little better than an exposed wire. Even now, small sparks leapt between bare fingertips cradled close together. "I promised you an explanation." Her voice filtered past the bathroom door, open or closed, to whatever safe distance he'd decided to occupy.

"You did." Cianan called back, as he worked in the kitchen, having left the door open in case some weird magical effect would send Shae down the drain. He wasn't quite sure. Chopping, preparation, and pouring each of them a glass of wine for when she got out. And then throwing a batch of cookies in the oven, because, when he was stressed, or worried, he baked. That had replaced his self-tattooing and piercing habit, oddly enough. He paused briefly, and headed a few steps closer to the door.

"It's...not as bad as the last time. I think it's because you called my name and it interrupted me." Her eyes, still pale as the pearls she held, didn't leave her hands. "What I did is something that I'm fairly sure is taboo. Or if not, maybe it should be." The markings on her skin moved more now than they usually did, looking for a crack in her skin from which they might escape. "There's something to a person's last exhalation of living air that has power to me. I think a measure of vitality must escape there." Like the first offering of a body returning to dust. "It's not a soul." There was no lack of art depicting the soul of living things leaving the body through the mouth, but that wasn't it. All those pictures merely tried to explain a phenomenon more obscure.

Cianan would pause in the doorway to the bathroom, not broaching it until he was beckoned to do so. "So. You get a bit.. lost when you take someone's last breath? It does a little something to you?" He wanted to make sure he had all that correct. His head tilted in, "But it's still the last touch of them on this mortal coil. I can kind of see it. I always got a little amped, when I was in combat, and you heard that last wheeze of life shuddering from a person. That final squeeze of fingers, before they went soft." Maybe it wasn't similar at all, but he could relate to it a bit, that way. "Let me know if you need anything in there."

"Yes." Acknowledgement for his described experience. It wasn't surprising to her that he, with his history, had glimpsed that touch. Somehow it felt easier to tell him this than any other time she’d explained this before. "Last Breath." She said it and it sounded like it had the emphasis of capital letters. "It's potent. Like a drug. It amplifies." Shae was on some Sylph version of steroids, charged. "One could get addicted." A shiver ran down her spine despite the high heat she had filled the tub with. One by one, pearls dropped from her fingers into the open mouth of the pouch below. Each new deposit carried fresh enchantment, bleeding the current thrumming from her skin drop by milky drop.

"One could." He agreed gently, "Kept me as a killer for many years.. I mean, I still kill. Just not, professionally." He doubted that sending one man tumbling between buildings, and caving another person's skull with iron knuckles would be considered not-killing. Or the crossbow stuff. "Having a life in your hands and ripping it away." He turned back, hearing the beep of the oven, and went to go sort some things out. "So.. you get a bit of a... power boost, to the living storm that you are? Or do you just lose a bit of control over whose breath you steal, while you're.. amped up?"

Her hands weren't clean, historically. Slavery, rebellion, and war had seen to that. However, she seemed to treat this particular kill as something different. "It's a boost." If a profane, almost parasitic one in her regard. A tactic for desperate rage and little else. "One that has turned tables, but it puts pressure on my self control. Intoxicating, damning." More strain for weakened seams. Her voice carried wherever he roamed, as if she followed him from room to room. Drop, drop, drop. Her heartbeat was calming and the scent of ozone was starting to fade where it had permeated his apartment.

Even though he knew she could do that, and they have had that experience before, it always seemed to throw him a bit, to not trust his own senses. He'd still smile though, it wasn't anything bad, just always took a moment or so to readjust and remind himself. "I have a vague idea then." He smiled towards the disembodied voice out of habit, and then rolled his eyes at himself. "I'll try to keep that in mind as well." To prevent that from coming up. "Take as long as you need in there, Shae." He took a drink from his glass of wine, and pulled some balled up fried potato off to the side, and into the warming tray of his oven. More time for him to keep cooking.

To some degree, she was aware of the havoc it caused when she projected her voice and took a small perverse pleasure in watching people jump from across the room. Still, in moments like this, it was less a teasing trick and more of a desire to maintain the conversation with him without having to shout across the apartment. She stayed until the last pearl was a gleaming lump in the pouch on the floor. Until the heated water went tepid and cool. Until the eyes in the mirror were their proper honey gold. Only then did she climb out. The water drained as she dried herself and, wrapped in a large towel, gathered her things.

He heard the water sloshing about, and tilted his head over, he could hear the water draining, and glanced over towards her, nudging a wine glass. "How you doing?" He turned, and smiled, and then he shoved the tray of potato stuff closer to her as well. Carbs, always good for lower energy! "You're looking a bit better."

Her things, including the velvet bag of pearls, were set on the couch while she continued in her towel dress towards the kitchen, the wine, and the scent of food. Her hair hung wet, towel tussled, but was drying at an accelerated pace as her breeze played about its strands. The wine was her first priority, and she smiled a tired smile at him over the rim of the drink. "Better." Hesitantly, she reached out to touch his arm as he nudged the tray closer. A light brush. It carried with it a hard static shock, but not the same force she might have exerted an hour ago. Her exhale seemed relieved as she echoed again: "Better."

Cianan yelped a bit, and rubbed his arm where he was shocked, and then slid in to give Shae a firm embrace, his cheek pressed against hers. He'd take the shock, and maybe it's get the last bit of a shock out. "Grab some wine, and some food?" A small kiss on her temple. They could relax for now, process all that stuff another time.

Her smile was too satisfied to be truly apologetic for the initial shock, but she hugged him when he stepped in to claim the gesture. Touching her came with a low grade pulse of tingling in time with her heartbeat. No more firm jolts, he was on her current now. "Do you have a robe I could borrow?" Denim over damp legs didn't sound comfortable. She sipped from the glass he had poured her, but didn't yet sample the food.

He moved and planted a kiss on her forehead, nodding his head, "I'll go grab you one." Robes. Cianan had plenty, also various lounging materials, "Dig into what's there." Along with the potatoes, were salmon flanks, the cookies as previously mentioned and steamed veggies. Stuff he could do quick, while she bathed. He moved into the bedroom, to dip into the closet and find a robe to give to her, something soft, smooth, silky.

"Thanks." The towel was comfortable, but needed constant adjustment. Not the best for eating in. He'd return to find her perched on the edge of the table, eating bits of potato with her fingers. Then an entire cookie. Rather than being a complete savage, she made a plate onto which she transferred salmon, veggies, and more potato.

That was perfectly fine! He hadn't gotten to the point of setting out silverware just yet, so stopped short, holding up the robe for her to slip into. Giving it a gentle bounce, "How is it?" The food. He knew she and Fox liked their red meat, but he rarely had any on hand without notice. Veggies were plentiful, though, and fruits.

Stepping away from the table she flashed a smile. "The potatoes and the cookies are delicious." All that she had tried so far. Her arms slipped into the sleeves of the robe held out and she wrapped it closed around her before letting the towel wriggle free to the floor. With a dip she picked up the damp discard and walked it back to hang in the bathroom. Shae was well aware of his dietary choices, and had never found fault for the skill with which he prepared his meatless dishes.

Now, it was his turn to make a plate! Moving over to grab a plate, and fish, and various things. He'd lean against the table as well, piling things on and waiting for her to come back. Well maybe he just wanted to watch her sashay about in the robe when she came back from the bathroom, either way, he has his position, and was eating, eyes peeking up every now and again.

It wasn't long before she joined him at the table, claiming a seat near where he had chosen to lean and dragging her plate over. Her appetite had returned after her extended stay in his bath. Silverware, silverware. She looked for a fork as she pinched a bite of zucchini into her mouth. "Do you think the watch will be able to piece together what happened to those men?"

Cianan shook his head slowly, "They might think the guys ran into some of the various other do-gooders that roam the area." He took a bite of salmon, using his fingers. He was super classy. Steamed veggies, and mushrooms were carefully popped in one after the other. "Will they be able to tell it's us? Probably not. It doesn't even look like my normal sort of thing." He took a breath, "We should probably be in the clear." That was his assumption. Another crunch from a steamed carrot, "We should worry more about if your friends were watching, or if they just sent some goons to distract us from something else."

"It's not like they are wearing signs around their necks that say 'I'm murderous scum who hunts people.' " This pointed out as she gave up on forks and joined him in eating with her hands. "What if they assume otherwise?" So far, Shae had eluded notice for her various antics, but luck didn't last forever. "I don't much like prison." Soft admission. The wind wasn't meant to be caged. It did harsh things to her psyche. She filled the space with bites of salmon. "They'd taken down the mirror on the roof. And they'd set fire to the building. They're fond of ambush tactics." As if that wasn't obvious. "Even if no one else was watching, they'll notice four missing men eventually."

"Nah. But they were dressed in weird robes. Matching, weren't they? Matching outfits tend to be the universal sign of a bad guy goon." He rolled his shoulders a bit, and loaded some potato on salmon, and took a bit bite. "The watch here, also.. really doesn't do much unless you go out of the way to rile them up." He sighed, "And there are plenty of vigilantes, bounty hunters and problem solvers, that roam around.”

“Mm. I don't want to be in another prison again, myself." He was locked away under Lloth's rule, and time in the wood elves capture. He'd prefer to not go back, even if it was far nicer than anything humans could come up with. "We don't have to worry about here.. that, and I have some pull with government and the watch." He waggled his hand.

The hunter's attire had been similar, but not in the robed cultist clothing line. They were deliberately nondescript, but functional. Flat colors of brown and grey. Meant to not stand out in a crowd or against the outline of a roof. Practical footwear, with a few items of use aside from weaponry. "That was the necromancers," clarified regarding the robes.

"I suppose I should be thankful for the lax attitudes of the local law enforcement." It made her wonder about another matter, but she didn't voice it. Instead she looked up as he mentioned his own past incarceration. "Bribing the law?" One brow raised. "I don't know whether to be appalled that it's so possible or impressed that you've done it."

"Mm." Cianan nodded his head, "True. You're right." He held up his hand coping to the error he had made. "Still, a bunch of people dressed, maybe not exactly the same, but similar does speak to an ambush if I were doing the investigating." One that had gone very south. He didn't seem to mind that at all, going over it. He gave her a small up nod if she wanted to ask, she had the all clear for it. "Oh yeah. Very possible. Also, easy to distract if you know people higher up in the chain of command."

"Did you arrange that when you came to town 'just in case' or was there a particular incident that required it?" Asked of his bribery connections while she ate all the carrots out of her scoop of mixed vegetables. Then it was on to the zucchini.

"As it required it." Cianan shrugged his shoulders, "As you know, there are lot of people, and peoples who reside here. Some are.. aggressive, and the worlds they come from are harsh, or they dominated, and now they do not.” He wiggled his fingers, "Things happen.. and you just need them to go away with fewer questions, just to keep things clean."

"Hm." Thoughtful sip of wine. "It's long been my practice to try and not put myself anywhere near the city guards. Of course, sometimes that didn't work." Here she began to smile. "I was thrown in jail the first day I arrived in Ravenhold, for example." The smile gradually turned cocky, proud. "I arranged a rather showy breakout in order to have a word with the guard captain. They ended up letting us go."

Cianan grinned a bit for Shae, and nodded his head, "Very nice!" He clapped his hands, "Most of the dungeon escapes I've had, have been fairly mundane, a few tears, a few promises. Dancing naked with elves in the moonlight to show them I changed.. and then." Well, he hadn't. A life time under Lloth did that to a person, though. "That's how I ended up here. After years." A long, long Con. "What'd you do to be thrown in Jail?"

"I may have called one of the gate guards by some choice names when he refused to relay a warning about what had happened to the nearby town." The smile faded a little. "We had investigated missing trade caravans and found an entire village had been transformed into experimental material." Things like the constructs that Cianan had encountered in the cave where Shae had been held. "It was the first time the Collector took so many."

Cianan made a face, his eyebrows furrowing a bit. "It's been trailing you for that long?" He moved over, setting his plate down, and draped an arm across her shoulders, "I'm sorry.." She'd been here for quite some time, "And those abominations.. constructed undead." He grumbled. A whole town? He exhaled.

"It was a slow build up to an outright war." Shae explained as she realized he didn't quite know how far back it went. "I think I've told you, I was in the middle of a siege when I came here." The hand with clean fingers came up to touch his where it rested on her shoulder. "We were retreating." A nod. Abominations was the right word for it. "Time may pass differently here than it does where I come from, or so I would hope. If his followers are active still then I suspect the war is still on."

Cianan gave a slow nod of his head, remaining in close and listening. "I remember that." Her coming here in the middle of a siege. Something had gone wrong. "Mm. So. Do you have thoughts of going home and resolving this issue? Or, do you just want to keep it from spreading here? And possibly elsewhere." The nexus was weird, but it had allowed Cianan to visit other worlds.

"When I decided not to go back it was because I didn't want the war to spread here." She picked less at her food now, a soft frown settling onto her features. "The Collector is named such for a reason. He has a bargain with a dark god on my world. One that demands souls. An as yet unmet quantity of them. He started smaller. Missing people. Lost traders. But he gained a following and--" The hand not on his gestured to the empty air, as if it held the sum total of everything that had happened since. "Now I...I don't know. Obviously they found a way here despite that decision. I don't know if they followed me, followed Mirini, or found their own way."

"We can.. take it one step at a time." Cianan squeezed her shoulder gently. "Figure out what to do about it... it doesn't matter how they got here, we just have to stop them from continuing to do so." He sighed, knowing that problem himself, even if he didn't want to admit it. There were plenty of times where he wanted to close off all routes to the UnderDark.

Like Cianan, she was only one person. Shae couldn't stand guard everywhere there was a breech, but stars... she wanted to. "Yes. I know. One step at a time." It sounded like she was trying to convince herself. She looked towards the door for a long moment, tearing her eyes away to find refuge in her wine glass.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2017 11:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Warning Ms. Mitford, Excerpt
Lucy's Loft, New Haven, Late Afternoon, May 11th, 2017

Shae sat with Lucy on her couch. For what felt like hours, they'd been talking. A much needed catching up.

Fingers pushed across her forehead as she looked at the gallery owner with an expression that struggled with the edges of guilt. "The Fae who held me was working with others. An alliance, of a kind, perhaps temporary. Dangerous sorts from my world that have apparently made their way here. I think they expected him to give me over to them." Setting the mug down, she reached for the bottle of whiskey to top it off. "When Cris and Cianan came to fetch me, they found evidence that these others had been watching me. And watching the people I know."

It took Lucy a beat longer than it probably should have to realize what Shae was saying. She nodded. Then nodded again. "Oh." She didn't entirely know how to react to that. As Shae well knew, Lucy had a hard time seeing herself as being at risk.

"I'm working on it. They don't belong here, but... please. I regret that I have to ask you to be on your guard for the sake of knowing me, but please take care with yourself. Let me know if you ever feel unsafe or watched." Her fingers laced together in her lap, right thumb pressing into the palm of her left hand. "I don't know what the watchers will do, but I intend to...to take care of it."

Lucy nodded. It wasn't that she was blithe to the danger, it was that she had once let fear for her safety work her up into such a frenzy that she had murdered an innocent man. She had since built a resistance to the whole idea of threats. She had to insist on calm. She had to insist on not responding to threats until they were at her throat. It was an extreme reaction, to an extreme thing that had happened. "I'll be careful."

Something unknotted between Shae's shoulders. Calm, but not dismissive. It was a tone that the Sylph could accept. She hoped nothing would come of it. It was one thing what had happened to her. It was another entirely for the demons of her past to inflict themselves on those she would hold far separate from them. "Thank you."

Lucy sat there, thoughtful a moment, not uncomfortable in a pause of silence. Then after a moment, she leaned forward and reached to set a hand on Shae's knee. "Can I help?"

The offer registered with surprise that fell beneath a careful study of the woman next to her. "I-- I don't know." In their conversations, Shae's understanding of Lucy's capabilities was perhaps as limited as Lucy's was of her own. "I wouldn't turn it down if there was something I could think of." Within reason. The sooner she extracted the roots of the watchers from the city, the easier her soul would rest. "Did you have something in mind?"

"Not--nothing specific." Lucy shook her head. She moved to set her glass of wine down (after taking a healthy sip) and then looked back at her. "But I've been practicing." She blushed as she said it. There was something embarrassing to her about being such a novice in so many ways in front of Shae. But at the same time, she knew she had power. She knew she was more powerful than she looked.

Seeing a blush on the woman's face brought a smile to Shae's. Small and warm, bordering on proud. "There will likely be several moments where I would be grateful for the aid of someone with your talents. As I'm sure Fin has been for the help you've given him." She untangled her hands to rest one featherweight on top of Lucy's touch to her knee. "If you're sure, I will seek you out if the opportunity arises."

Lucy nodded. She wasn't even entirely sure what she was agreeing to. But she nodded anyhow. "I'm sure." What she was sure about was that she didn't want to be thought of as weak anymore. She wanted to show that she could hold her own.


Some time later:



Lips parted for another question when the smell of smoke cut her off. Flame sprouted in midair not two feet from Shae. A small handful that resolved itself into a singed edge receipt that fluttered down towards Lucy's coffee table. Surprise evident on Shae's face for the appearance.

Lucy started at the burst of flame, and she nearly, out of instinct, threw her glass of wine at it. "Oh, crap!" Thankfully she managed to stop in time, resulting in only a sudden herk-and-jerk on the couch, the little rosé left in her glass sloshing about.

Brows drawn in, Shae leaned carefully towards the bit of crumpled paper. The word Leung's popped out at her and her memory triggered. "It's...Cris." She reached for the paper to be sure. On the back two questions had been scrawled and she tilted it so Lucy could read: Are you all right? Is Cianan?

Lucy's brows raised, her eyes wide. "Cris--he--did that?" Color Lucy impressed. A corner of her lips turned up in a faint smile. "He usually just texts me."

"Yeah." It was that the receipt was from his favorite Chinese take out that made her so sure. "He usually texts me too. I wonder why he didn't." Teeth worried at her lower lip. "He's only sent me a message in this manner once before." She didn't feel the need to add that it had been a parcel with tissue samples, but that memory alarmed her. "It got through your wards." The last was impressed, surprised but impressed.

"That's not--is that bad?" Lucy looked around a little, as if she thought she might actually be able to see the wards. Then she looked back at Shae. It didn't seem like she was worried about it.

"No. No." Quick reassurance. "You trust him, right?" The question was rhetorical. "A lot of what gets through or doesn't has to do with intent." It was an imprecise science. "It's just that previously he couldn't push it that far." There were changes in the man after his ordeal. Shae was digging for her phone.

"Oh, okay." Lucy nodded, a faint smile of reassurance. She looked over at the note again. "I assume we shouldn't call him to check on him."

Shae fired off a quick series of texts. "I'm hoping he has his phone on him." Small frown. She didn't have long to wait for a reply from Cris. She'd barely reread her own messages when his popped up on her screen. Guilt flashed through Shae's face before she smothered it with a sip from her mug and cleared her throat. "He's fine."

She looked at Shae, raising a brow. "What happened?"

"Cianan and I were involved in an altercation the other day. It seems Cris found out." More buzzing, a few more tapped replies. "Fox is with him."

"Oh." Her brow furrowed and she leaned to set her glass down. "Should I be worried about you?"

Shae tucked her phone away and busied her hands with carefully folding the receipt to store it in her pocket near the jeweler's bag that held Lucy's pearl. "There are four less people watching my friends now." It was meant to sound reassuring, but it was also a confession. Shae let Lucy take it as she would. "And I'm making a point of doing as little travel as possible by myself."

Lucy could occasionally be a little slow on the uptake. She opened her mouth to say something, but apparently realized what she meant before she said anything. She closed her mouth again, then nodded. "That's probably a good idea."

"If you can do the same, where you can, it would be a favor to me." Hands now empty folded together, and she picked at a cuticle restlessly. Not the removal, obviously, but the travelling with company.

Lucy raised a brow. "Is it--is it that serious?"

"Lucy these people..." Shae didn't want to frighten the woman without cause, and so she tried to frame her reply carefully. "I'm not fully sure what they will attempt. The fact that they went to the trouble to profile the people I know alarms me more than I care to say."

It took her a moment to respond. Then she shifted to her feet. "Excuse me a moment." She had left her phone over by the desk. She picked it up, then started tapping. "I've used a service before--they're not the best at--at supernatural stuff, but with--well--I'm--I'm alright with that side of things." She brought the phone to her ear, an apologetic look at Shae while she quietly made arrangements to have a bodyman starting the following morning.

Lucy's apologetic look was met with a relieved one. Thankful that her concern was taken seriously. Fin had been harder to persuade, though that might have had something to do with his habit of lessening his own value. "The watchers are less prone to magic." More prone to ambush tactics, as she'd found out.

Lucy finished her call quietly and politely, then hung up. She nodded to Shae. "It'll be Sean in the morning. He's been with me before." She set the phone down on the coffee table, before returning to her seat.

"Thank you." Verbally expressing the sense of relief. "I should...I suppose I should take my leave." Suddenly unable to shake a sense of discomfort. Guilt gnawed at her. That she was sitting so still when she should be doing something to fix the problem.

"You don't have to hurry." But she knew it had been a long visit, and Shae was going through something of a difficult time, to say the least. Lucy got to her feet, and offered a hand towards Shae, hoping to pull her into a hug when she rose.

The gesture was accepted warmly. A tight squeeze that wanted to keep the redhead safe. When Shae let go she'd suppressed a measure of the anxiety. "It was good to see you. I'm sorry it wasn't on better terms. Maybe next time it can be something lighthearted. A tea date, something like that."

"I'd like that." She lingered near and smiled faintly at her. "It'll be alright." Lucy had no way of knowing that, but maybe saying a thing helped make it come true. She walked with Shae to the door, throwing back the locks. "Text me when you get home safe?"

"I will." It was the least she could do after laying so much at Lucy's feet. Shae left and took her breeze with her.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2017 1:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eggrolls and Absolution, Part 1
Church House, Early Afternoon, May 17th, 2017

Along with his atrocious inability to maintain friendships, he has an equally terrible time forewarning his arrival. It isn't until Cris is out the door of his rented room, one of only twelve units spread out on a single level and painted a stomach churning pastel coral, and settled on the seat of a bike that's still trickling into existence beneath him when he digs his phone out of his gear and taps out a couple short messages.

Text to Shae: Are you at home?
Text to Shae: How long has it been since you've had Chinese?

Her reply came back fairly quickly.
Text to Cris: I am.
Text to Cris: Too long.
Text to Cris: This an invitation out, an offer to deliver, or a cruel tease?

It was by the third text message that she had woken fully from her unscheduled nap at her desk. She carried the phone to the bathroom with her and went about the business of scrubbing ink off her cheek and jaw.

Text to Shae: I'm am not so cruel.
Text to Shae: 29 minutes, I will bring it with me.
Text to Shae: What would you like?

He stuffs his phone away in its pocket and starts the engine. Most of the journey will be eaten up on the way to Church House. He can get a head start on Leung's, presuming she'll respond before he gets there.

Text to Cris: That's a very specific estimate. I feel like I should time you.
Text to Cris: Dumplings.

Because really, who didn't like dumplings? Of course, she shouldn't eat just dumplings.

Text to Cris: And, you know, some other stuff. Fox wants eggrolls.

That she was passing along the request could be construed as a positive sign for her relationship with her familiar.

He'd taken some time paused at an intersection to put in a short order to Leung's in accordance with Shae, and Fox's, requests. He doesn't know how many eggrolls the man was after, but if he ordered enough, they'd give him two regardless. He adds a pint of egg drop soup, a small sesame beef and curry chicken, with a pint of lo mein noodles and rangoons. Early afternoon to early evening is the restaurant's peak block, and when he arrives, some eight minutes later, he inches his way through the line of hungry people crowding the counter for lunch.

Text to Shae: He's there with you?

Text to Cris: He is. Place was a bit too empty with Kate gone.

Even if the woman was a bit of a voyeur with the home security system after all the recent 'guests'.

Text to Cris: He's been supervising the repair crew fixing the side of the building below my window.
Text to Cris: They're at lunch now, but I suspect he'll be back at it when they return.

Meaning he'd likely abscond with his eggrolls and leave them be.

Text to Shae: I'm glad to hear that, Shae.

Small talk with Mrs. Leung includes the confirmation of her suspicions that he's eating with another person, because he can't be packing it all away on his own. He assures her that he'll do what he can to let that other party know they're on nutrition duty, that he'll return again in person soon, and will order more than soup for himself.

Text to Cris: Seventeen minutes.

He arrives at Shae's home some fifteen minutes later, he'd overshot with his estimate, and parks the bike in an adjacent alley rather than anywhere on the property. Three cut runes render it part of the detritus that makes up those narrow lanes, with overlapping warding. He approaches the door with the bag of aromatic food pressed up against his ribs, its heat eating through the thin cotton of his white shirt. He rests his hand upon the door handle to wait for its locks and wards to let him pass.

She was either actually timing him or she was messing with him. Even still, his estimate was eerily close. He must frequent Leung's enough to be able to predict the lunch rush. Shae felt him step foot on the property and made her way downstairs. Outside a work crew was lazing on grass that had recently been cut. Most of the land around the graves was still overgrown, but recent upgrades to security had required a little bit of landscaping. Out front, Shae's neglected herb garden showed signs of recent tending.

This time the door didn't open for him by magical means. The temperature had spiked and Shae stood in the doorway with her hair up above a faded print t-shirt in grey with black letters reading 'Polite As ****'. Her legs were wrapped in jeans, and her feat were bare. "Delivery man survival rate is two for two. I feel better now." Half-smile as she beckoned him inside.

His hand jolts back when the handle turns under it. He expects to find himself face to face with open air, but it's Shae that stands there before him, and he blinks. From her updo to the big, bold **** on her shirt. He snorts, chuckles twice through an abrupt tautness somewhere below his collarbones. "Naturally. Your enemies must have some manners, for one dares not disturb the transport of good Chinese, lest one wishes for a painful death." He crosses the threshold. "Where are we to go?"

Several fans were going in the converted building to help keep the air cool. It was still a degree or two above the ideal, but it was an improvement over the exterior. There was a moment of hesitation when she closed the door behind him, she smoothed it over with a light laugh. "It would be a crime that's truly unforgivable." Shae gestured towards the main room and the kitchen beyond. "The couch or the island in the kitchen." Fox, four legged, was sprawled out in front of a floor plan with his eyes closed.

He feels the warmth of Church House wrap him in a welcome he does not want. The air is close, threatening to thicken. Heat will not help, and he has a hot plate up against his ribs already. "The kitchen will be fine." He'd liked the look of it when he was last here, however briefly he'd looked it over, and it would force him to remain on his feet. He rips open the bag through its staples and searches inside for the sleeve of two eggrolls to deliver to Fox as they passed the resting canid by, leaving them near his right flank.

One singular tail flip was as much of a 'thank you' as Cris was bound to get for his eggroll delivery. Shae continued up the steps past the fireplace towards the oasis of granite and bar stool seating. It was warm in the house, but closer to the Sylph her ever moving breeze was a kindness. "Can I get you something to drink?" Maybe she just wanted the excuse to open the fridge. It helped. Her breeze dropped a degree or two in ambient temperature after a minute or so loitering there. Shae's fridge was a thing of bottled beverages and take-out containers.

"Anything cold," he says, a few paces back. He'd run out of Gem's handrolleds last night, and had to settle for a pack from the closest convenience store specializing in Earth vices. He'd brought two, the probe of two fingers on his right hip tells him. It's a blessing when he can pass off the bag of food to the counter. He shoves his palm across his ribs to quell the irritation from too much time spent beside hot food. He busies his hands with the unpacking. "It seems obvious by Fox's presence downstairs that you've, at least, progressed to some sort of tolerance for him, yes? Your discussion went well?"

Snaring glasses, Shae was soon pouring iced green tea from a jug, augmented with a generous handful of ice. She'd have to get Kate to show her how the air conditioning worked when she came back. Shae didn't know how to work the thermostat and didn't want to break something. Drinks were delivered to the island while he sorted through the to-go containers. "It went." To say it went well was a level of optimism Shae didn't quite want to reach for. They'd reached a peace, after much arguing from both sides. "And it'll get better."

He can hardly fault her, he'd told her something cold after all. He sets out her dumplings last, pops the lid on his small soup container to let it breathe. "I see. I'm glad, at least, then that he has this chance."

Given the playfully mocking nickname Fox had burdened him with, Shae was mildly surprised to hear Cris' empathy. The creature in question had picked himself up off the floor and was carrying his eggrolls towards the stairs that led up to the landing library and Shae's room. Fingers snared a dumpling as she considered how to reply, looking at the bits off loose leaf settling in her glass. In the ends she couldn't come up with anything, so she changed the subject. "Thank you for going with him the second time." The fact that Fox had gone by himself for the first go 'round had been a bone of contention after she found out about the fire at the storehouse.

"He asked me to," he says, by way of explanation, but it is not much of one. Just because Fox had suggested it did not mean that he had to comply. He stirs the small cup of soup, invigorating the mottled egg whites and chive onions with a pair of chopsticks he had yet to separate. "It would have been stupid for him to return alone, in the off chance someone was lying in wait for him. Without yours and Cianan's interference, that's exactly what would have happened. Did he discuss with you his theories on just what it was that killed two of those men?"

Her soft grunt was one of agreement. None of them should be moving alone against these people. Not when the number that remained was still such an unknown. "Which two men?" She asked carefully.

He doesn't believe it possible that they hadn't discussed it. Not in at least some short detail. He taps the chopsticks on the edge of his soup cup, then sets them aside on the lid. "There were three corpses left behind across the street from the storehouse. One on the roof, and the one felled on the uppermost level of the fire escape did not die because of simple blunt force trauma. We did not get to look at the fourth. There was a small area of the street a few blocks back from there cordoned off for the removal of another corpse." He looks up, and over. "You do not have to tell me. But when I told Fox what I saw, he insisted returning to the roof to inspect them himself. He was concerned that you'd done something rash." It isn't the right term, but it fits better than any he thinks Fox would have labeled it with.

Oh, they had. At length. Cris recapped the bodies and none of them registered as a surprise. She took her time to organize her response, buying a few extra seconds with sipping from the glass of home cold brew. Of course Fox had insisted. "He had a right to be angry about that." It was one of the few points she had conceded to him during their argument. "I had promised him I wouldn't."

Shae sighed. "It was a dangerous thing. I was angry, and it was thoughtless."
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2017 2:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eggrolls and Absolution, Part 2

"Of the few emotions I did detect, anger did not seem to be one of them," he says, feeling better, slightly, and trying not to, about the fact that she had answered. "More than that, it can be incredibly difficult to think when enveloped in a powerful enough rage. You mentioned they were an ambush."

"They were." And she found herself explaining. "When we first climbed up a figure broke and ran while I was looking at some markings on the corner of the roof. Cianan gave chase before I could react." She picked at a dumpling. "It was a ruse meant to separate us. I moved to follow and there was a figure in front of me. I downed him on instinct. One of the spells I keep prepared on principle." Few things could tolerate sudden exposure to high voltage. "There were two others that had flanked me. Cianan...I didn't see how, but he took care of the one he'd chased and turned back when he realized he was being led away. The other two were armed. One had a whip. A very specific weapon that nullifies certain types of magic." A hunter's whip. "Cianan disposed of the one with the sword and I turned on the man with the whip."

He listens as she does, taking short mouthfuls of the soup as she puts visuals to the aftermath that they had witnessed. "There was nothing upon the men we saw aside from their clothing and injuries. You stripped them of their weapons, yes?" The cup pauses on its way up. He turns more to face her, then, putting his hip against the counter. "You said you were investigating marks left behind. Do you mean the holes drilled into the ledge? Whatever had been there, it was gone even when you were both investigating?"

"No." And the expression on her face made it clear that she was irritated at that oversight. "One of their people must have gotten the weapons. We left rather quickly." Small, tight exhale. "Yes. I meant the holes. I think they may have mounted a mirror there to watch the storehouse, but it may have been removed around about the time they set fire to the building. If they left a team there to ambush us, there would be no real need to have a piece of equipment as well."

He hums a sound of agreement, "Likewise, if they torched the location they meant to spy on, there would be even less of a need to leave evidence behind.

"Were you all right afterward?"

"It took some time, but I was. I found an outlet." It could have been worse. The timing of Cianan's interjection had broken her concentration in the moment.

He nods, firmly guiding a few trains of thought down another track that didn't involve activities that could be used as proper outlets for rage or too much energy. "What do you plan to do next?"

"I'd like to try and get a handle on where these mirrors are. See if I can use them to my advantage. Maybe lure out more of their numbers to dispose of them." Were they past what she had done? It felt like it. She chewed at her lip, torn between the strange desire to explain herself and the long standing habit of not talking about it.

For the moment, they are, lest she decides to speak on it more. She'd answered the questions he had, and he rarely made it a habit of revisiting a topic more than once if it was unnecessary, even more so if he felt it to be the source of discomfort.

He pops open the other containers, deciding against collecting plates for them to use. Instead, he splits his chopsticks and eats a piece of beef from one, gathers a nest of lo mein noodles from another. "If they really did remove the device, then it's likely they've bolstered the defenses of the others. Or, they may have moved them. Is there any location in specific you think is more important to them than the others?"

The woman fidgeted on the stool as she framed her reply. "Ehm. The Inn." It was a central hub that all of them had stepped into at one point during the course of the surveillance. "Even if they moved it, I would think they'd want to be able to keep an eye on that location in particular. If I can find whatever mirrors they are using there, I should hopefully be able to devise some method of detecting the others." Pause. "Maybe with Lucy's help.”

Shae, who had been eating dumplings by hand, reaches for a set of chopsticks in order to be less of a heathen with her food.

He agrees with her assessment, shows it with a nod. Of the three dishes he's sampled from, it's the sesame beef that wins out. He tilts the carton, stirs some of the sauce drenched chunks around before selecting one. "How did she take it all?"

For a half second, she almost asked 'who'. "She took my concerns seriously by the end of the conversation. Called a body detail service to make sure she's not travelling alone." Fin, of course, was another matter.

"The both of us were surprised by your fire message. I was in her apartment talking to her at the time and it just appeared above the coffee table." Now Shae was pulling the receipt he'd sent out of her pocket and setting it on the counter. She'd guessed rather quickly it was from him, considering it was a receipt for Leung's.

Small inhale. "What did Fox say to you to make you contact me like that instead of texting?"

"Thaff'ery wive," he clears his throat with his fist close to his mouth, keeps it there until he swallows. "Wise, excuse me." Reaching for the receipt, he turns it over, recognizing his own pale handwriting, grooves pressed here and there with pressure from the pencil. He looks up at an angle following her question, tongues his teeth after another, smaller swallow. The tip of his index finger smears against the left corner of his mouth as he answers, "Something in his inspection of the corpses resulted in his concern over the method you'd used. He bade me contact you immediately, because what he'd thought you'd done he said would make your touch volatile until you could contain it. Obviously, that would not bode well for a phone. On the off chance that he was correct, I did not wish to risk it."

Lips pressed together as she watched him, slow to unwrap and break apart her own chopsticks. It was poorly done, with one side bigger than the other at the end. She looked down at the uneven break and gave the sticks a small rug together to remove any flyaway slivers of wood.

"It does. It's..." Stalling, the memory of a previous conversation haunting her, she looks at him with both brows gently raised. "If I couldn't touch my phone, how did you think I'd respond?"

His left shoulder rises and drops. "I wasn't expecting you to do so immediately. If Fox was correct in his assumption, then I did not believe you would, lest you could. I was willing to wait. But----" slightly ducking his head, "Fox's prediction that you'd somehow killed Cianan on accident seemed highly unlikely to me. Fox would have known, I'm sure, through the connection that you share. You care for him a great deal, there would be no feasible way a loss like that would go unnoticed. Fox knows more about your capabilities than I do, he has ways of detecting that which I can't, and I do not shun his judgement or assessment of facts. But I did not think you were in as much danger as he did. You would have found a way to return my message."

He reaches for the glass of tea she'd poured for him, the pair of chopsticks balanced between the length of the fingers of that same hand.

It was that easy confidence in her that broke her, and so she tried to explain. Chopsticks were set down and she laced her fingers together in her lap to wring them beneath the view of the island counter she was sitting at. "I know you've killed Cris, so I know you'll know what I mean when I talk about the moment right as a person dies. When the lights go out, when they slump. It's actually all over Earth literature if you look for it. The notion of the moment the vitality leaves. Well. There's some truth to it." She licked her lips. "I'm not sure if it's always there, but to someone like me there's some of that vital energy in a person's final breath."

He frowns halfway through the first sip. For her beginning, and for the flavors, he's surprised that it isn't at all terrible, and he gives her his attention as he sets the glass back down. His chopsticks return to the carton in his other hand, he shuffles around for a smaller bite, nodding to tell her he heard, and understood.

"If I-- If I take that, that's when. When I become volatile. It's powerful. And it's something I have tried not to do." One hand darted for a sip from her own glass. "It's dangerous, that volatility. For a time I can do much more than I'm normally capable of." Another sip. "I've never had another Fae-- another Sylph around to tell me so, but I've got the feeling that it wouldn't be looked kindly upon. To be frank, it's a feeling that I can only compare to drug use. That first time high, every time." In other words, if she wasn't careful, habit forming. "When I'm angry it becomes something I start to reach for, almost without realizing it. There is rage and the rage wants fuel. The first time was by accident when I was younger. I had no idea what would happen, until it did." Then, a dark period in the deserts of the south.

The skip at the start pulls his brows toward each other. He'd been letting his eyes roam. Over her hair and the sharp line of her jaw. Her fingers where they curl around the glass she lifts. He suspects, only just, that she does not want to be telling him this at all. While he's grateful, and had wanted to know, he hadn't wanted to press her, either. His thinned, studious gaze flits to lock upon her gold one. "What was it about this time that caused it?"

"Anger." Pure instinctual rage and no one to tell her no. "The man had brought along a weapon that had been used on me before, in the fight before I came here. It's a whip that's meant to suppress the use of magic. After the shackles, the memory of that sensation...the moment his hold slackened in surprise when his partner went down to the crossbow. I turned on him." Her expression was full of a disappointment in her own weakness. "Cianan called my name and it interrupted me. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but I shouldn't have let it happen." Fox was normally there to be that yoke in her mind, helping to draw her up short before she did something she'd regret. She'd relied too much on him for that.

Anger, yes, he'd guessed that much. But he'd yet to learn the source of it. What could cause so much collected resolve and overlapped control to pull taut and snap. She continues. He lowers the carton in his hand, the notion of another bite put on hold. "Did you spend that volatility on the one Cianan struck in the back of the head?"

It had been so much easier to explain this to Cianan, for some reason. Maybe it was because of the way her nerve endings had been humming with potential energy at the time. Maybe she was just more worried about what Cris thought. "No. I struck that one first, Cianan's blow to the back of the head must have finished him. I found another outlet. I warned him not to touch me and we left. Then I poured the half measure I'd collected into a working to be rid of it."

His chin lifts, puzzle pieces shifting, rotating, then sliding back into places that fit them much better. "I'd thought it the other way 'round, actually. The one looked as though he'd been taken by complete surprise, whilst the one you'd electrocuted seemed to be mid-attempt to escape." He sets the carton down, lays his chopsticks carefully between its open flaps. "Is this only the second time it's happened?"

"He was trying to escape. The one I struck first? He recovered and tried to run." And then he'd ended up on the fire escape. He hadn't gotten far. "I'd aimed to incapacitate him when the altercation started. Before I realized there were more of them. I'd wanted someone to question." She stalls on the last question. "No." Truth, because she didn't have it in her to lie to him. "It's the second time it's happened while I have been here. The first while I was here...I was dancing and the customer who had hired me wanted more entertainment than I'd agreed to."

"What of the fourth? Before we arrived, the town's law enforcement were examining another body some few blocks away." He crosses his arms in the silence that follows, letting the counter hold up a bit more of his weight. Its edge presses the hard, leather line of his belt more firmly to his hip.

Recognition strikes brightly across his features when she does answer. He blinks, losing some of the shadows hanging over his scowl. "I remember that."

"The one a few blocks off? Cianan ran after him when he saw the figure take off. It turned out to be a ploy to separate us. I had been inspecting the area where the mirror must have been mounted at the time. Before I could give chase the other three made themselves known. Cianan took care of him somehow, we didn't discuss it at the time." She'd more been concerned about getting the hell out of there.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2017 2:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eggrolls and Absolution, Final

Arms crossed and scowling, the picture of him had her wincing into her glass.

"Granted, I do not remember it all. I recall......" squinting, he muscles his reverie past the vivid imagery of coins and silks and skin, ".....you hadn't the desire to discuss it back then, either. Much like now," his gaze swerves back to hers, catching the tail end of the wince. "What will happen to you if you give in to the pleasure you inadvertently take from this?"

Shae makes a face when he describes it as 'pleasure'. "It's not--" She was quick to try and clarify with a sharp denial, but cut herself off. Slow exhale, she tried again calmly. "Pleasure is a back massage. It's dancing with hot skin and sharing breath. It's collapsing after vigorous sex. This is not pleasure. It's more like an invincible feeling. For a short time nothing is impossible. It's every satisfying punch. Every sense of righteous vindication. It's an amplification to spells and a physical barrier to touch. No I don't like talking about it, because to the person I am now it feels wrong. Ill gotten." But stars, what a power trip. "If I were to indulge I would become as lightning." Chained into a fury. Something base. Rage.

Minute shifts unsettle the depth of his frown. Nowhere close to a smile, but threatening at an even, impassive line. They had different definitions of the word pleasure, that much becomes clear. What she describes sounds more pleasurable to him than its prefacing list. Any of it, all of it, even if it only lasts for a short amount of time. He moves his left hand, presses his thumb firmly against the lean swell of his bicep and the corner of a black Mark. "Could you come back?"

"Yes." Hesitant. The question was not one she expected. "I did, didn't I?" She'd backed down from that electric edge. Certainly all those things felt good. She wasn't denying that. She just elected to draw a line on what she attributed to the word in question.

There, part of his mouth turns up. He looks between her eyes a few beats before he finally nods. "Yes, you did." Then he cants his head, "Looking back on it now, have you any notion on how else you could have responded?"

As if she didn't already obsessively play her lapses of control over and over in her head, now he was asking for examples. "Of course."

"It's always easier to do so in hindsight, when that fire has vacated your body and you're left only with the memory of what you've done. Because you have the time to now, yes?" He scratches his arm where he'd pressed his thumb, two, angry red lines cutting across the diamond corner of the Mark there.

Eyes for the lines and then for the mark itself, drawn by the movement and then by the quiet satisfaction of tracing the bold black on his skin. Clearing her throat she looked away, picked up her chopsticks and stuffed a whole dumpling into her mouth. " 'indsigh'. Yesh."

He snorts, ducking his head. "You did not want to tell me this, did you?"

"No." Soft, that word.

It's rare that he pries, does so only when he wishes to make a point somewhere down the line, as if to give his fervent curiosity permission to drill holes. He counts the beats of silence as they build. Listens to her chew, and the roar of distance fans, mingling with her own breeze, keeping the air from going completely still. "Why?" asking finally, matching her volume.

"Because." She wasn't going to leave it at that, but he was asking for a heavy truth from her. While she hadn't denied him thus far, he was prying into a wound she'd been holding tightly closed for the sake of forward motion. The expression she turns to him is as vulnerable as the night she asked him to stay. Fragile in a way she rarely let show. "I don't think I could take it right now if the way you looked at me changed into something like the face he showed me."

He's patient, often in ways, in places, he shouldn't be. Even in the thrall of a difficult conversation, his patience, and subsequent non expectant silence can hold its own weight. He waits for as long as he needs to, as long as she does, a faint seam returning to the space between his brows when their gazes meet and seeing the rawness in hers feels like trying to breathe around a knife in his ribs. A line of tension rises from jaw to temples, releasing after a slow swallow.

He doesn't ask her what she'd seen, though he wants to know now, more than he ever did, so that he could disprove it all. Slowly, he shakes his head. Right, left, then a fraction to the right again. "Nothing you can do will make that happen, Shae." He maintains the same muted volume they'd slipped, soft, but still a few degrees above losing voice altogether.

The slow shake of his head was in time to the way her heart shifted in her chest, hooked and dragged from one side to the other until the moment he spoke. When he did, she heard her breath hitch in her throat. Hands drawn in towards her stomach crossing tight and gripping at the cotton there like emphasis around the expletive. Her gaze didn't leave his as her own brows drew together. There weren't words for what that sentiment meant to her. There was only a shaky exhale. There was only the way her eyes started to water as she finally looked away. The colors of the stained glass window behind the sink were a kaleidoscope. And then her head was in her hands with palms dashing at her eyes.

It had taken longer than he wanted to utter it. He had not wanted to watch what the dread hollow out her cheeks, or the brittle light in her eyes as she held his. His brows come together. He ducks his head at the same time that she does, a knot of strain rhythmically churning at the back of his jaw. Behind his right elbow, his hand aches where he clenches it in secret, most of the stress on his ring finger, driving the blunt nail into his palm.

It's a different kind of pain than he's used to, to maintain the short, four and a half foot distance still between them. All at once, thirty-eight seconds later, he drops the lock on his arm, pulls his aching hand down his mouth and chin and approaches her. Four and a half become three, become one, until he can feel the curve of her shoulder hit him dead center in the chest. He reaches across her, despite the part of his mind that protests, questions it, tells him not to because it's too warm, and it's too important, meaning to touch the breadth of his palm to her neck, subtle tension in his arm to convey permission to give him the weight of her lean.

Thirty-eight seconds was time where she struggled to steady herself. Looking at nothing but her eyelids. Listening to nothing but her anxious, hummingbird heartbeat. Slow, she demanded of it. Breathe, the instruction for her lungs. The impact of his chest to her shoulder undid almost all of her progress, for reasons both relating to and wholly separate from the drowning sense of relief that came in the wake of his quietly voiced acceptance. Sentiment that had made her fingers shaky.

The pressure of his palm against the curve of her neck ruined the rest of it. Certain he could feel the pulse that hammered there. Surprise registered somewhere in the moments where she took her fingers away from her face. Permission in his body language transformed it into gratitude. Half twist let her rest her cheek against his shirt as her arms settled around the lines of his careworn torso. Her next, forcibly slow exhale was a warmth that skirted his ribs.

In the seconds that followed, her fingers curled into the fabric of his shirt, a gentle greedy snare.

The outside of his hand settles against the warm dip between neck and shoulder, the calloused length of his thumb against her jaw. She turns into him and he raises his elbow so she has room, exhaling when she finds a place to lean and the shape of his chin, rough with a few days' worth of black stubble, rests upon the top of her head. It occurs to him that he is incredibly selfish when it comes to allowing even small moments like this, his own comfort stacked on an unreachable tier when put against a close friend that needed only a brief reassurance that he was not going anywhere, and did not mean to. He watches the kitchen wall across from him without really seeing it, shutting away that part of his mind dedicated to keeping track of her fingers curling tighter. Heat beats through him from the air and her lean, but there's a deeper chill on its heels, a kind of polar anticipation and revs the imagination. He grits his teeth, loops his other arm around her back and curves his hand to the shape of her shoulder. "I mean that," he tells her. Little strands of her hair tickle his upper lip. "I do not know the extent of what you've been forced to endure, but I can guarantee that the approximation of my loyalty to you was greatly, greatly inadequate."

Caught in the space between his thumb on her jawline and the feel of his shirt against her cheek, topped with the dip of his chin to the crown of her head and the loop of his second arm across her shoulders, Shae closed her eyes. The hug felt much like a cage of safety where her pomegranate and herb soap and salt cheek brine meshed with his sun soaked cotton and smoke and metal. She breathed in the security of it, the points where their torsos met, committing it to memory with as much focus as she could spare from just enjoying that reassurance.

His voice caught in her hair, and she would have folded his sincerity into her braid if she could. Would have worn it like a token for idle hands to find comfort in. "I'm immensely thankful for that." The words were chest vibration and the sketch of the side of her lip against his sternum, but they were not weak. They were a squeeze of her arms that tried to convey a sentiment where words fell short. And then, with a small helpless laugh, she added: "I didn't think I would ever say that I was blessed to have someone poison my tea."

He's become used to the smell of their food. Her softer, spicier scent carries easier. His favorite fruit, natural herbs and feminine skin. He snorts for her confession, chuckles only once, but she can feel it where she's resting against him, the brief catch of voice given to the amusement, low in his throat. He locks his gaze with the closed refrigerator, bows his head to touch his mouth to her hair, the firm squeeze from his hand on her shoulder finding the rigid line of bone under flesh and lean muscle. "It most definitely could have been a much more bleak experience."

There were things she needed to tell him about. Things she wanted to give him. They would keep. For now, they would keep. Now was for the hum of his amusement and her breeze that could find no space between his hand and her shoulder. Two years wasn't a large span in comparison with her age, but it felt like an epoch for all that those two years had changed her. "Yes," she agreed after a silence where she just breathed. "I'm glad it wasn't." In the moment was best.

In some ways it seems much longer. Twenty, perhaps, for how well he can remember them both. He smoothes his palm back across the side of her head, the curve of her ear warm, soft, below. "I'd like to think that you and I would have inevitably ended up here." Not entirely here, in this place, at this time, under this stress, but if he'd been destined to die last year, then he does not exactly know how else it would have turned out. He presses his mouth once more, briefly, to her hair, then begins a cautiously sluggish extraction from her embrace.

"Is that right?" Asked as she reluctantly surrendered to the heat and the cues of his withdraw from the gesture he'd gifted her with. Perhaps her fingers lingered on the hem of his shirt just a little before letting go. "The universe and fate shifted to have you bring me Chinese food?" Her words were light, but there was affection beneath them. "Must be some kind of magic. Maybe one of your angels with a sense of humor." Shae didn't like to indulge in 'meant to be' meetings on typical occasions. Fortunes read had never been in her favor, but when she thought of all the things that had led her to such a strange place, where she could experience the sensation of someone dear kissing her hair, her skeptic heart wanted to believe.

He feels the tug of fabric caught, glances down to find her hand retreating a moment after her arms did. Cris withdraws enough only to avoid crowding her, half of his mouth on the rise when he does. "The universe and fate need not interfere for that to happen." He looks aside at nothing, the open doorway leading out of the kitchen to the rest of Church House, but she ultimately draws him back. "But you may be right. Perhaps an incredibly cruel Angel, with errant and inexplicable spurts of mercy."

Her hands found her drink, watered down for the half melted ice but she didn't mind. It was cool and she pressed the glass to the side of her neck before taking a long sip. His addition, when he turns back to her, has her smiling. Her shoulders set higher for the loss of a phantom weight. "You're not cruel." Gentle admonishment. "I'll buy the errant and inexplicable gestures, perhaps. But not the cruelty."

He does not watch her with the glass. He could do with his own, actually, but she catches him before he searches it out with an unspoken connotation that hooks every fraying edge of his mind and pulls it in, cinching it tight. He pauses mid-turn as those three sentence line up and repeat. Bashful is not an emotion he wears well, and it is fortunately not there for very long. He smiles, all white, even teeth and budding crows feet at the corners of his eyes. Despite himself, and the personal belief that he is as far from the Angels as any other Shadowhunter, perhaps more so now for his plummet below the earth and time spent suffocating in a Hell plane. Ducking his head, he exhales a chuckle, returns, slow, to his place some two and a half feet back where he sees his glass, devoid of ice now, and he draws it in across the island. "Thank you," comes four beats later. "I'm glad to hear that."
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Shae Stormchild
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2017 8:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ghost Writer

If asked to recall the evening spent at the Inn, she would be hard-pressed to give any details. She remembered bodies filling the common room from the way the colors they wore had bled together around her. She remembered warmth from drinks she didn’t recall finishing and food she couldn’t describe the taste of. Had she tried any? She wasn’t sure. She remembered conversation, but only that she had participated until she could find the excuse to leave without it being remarked upon.

Beyond this series of events, details of the night were hazy except for what began with the sharp corner of folded parchment that had been sticking out of her mail cubby. Time had slowed when she'd seen the curve of red wax that sealed it, when she'd seen the decorative ridges of the singular M pressed into the melted mass. The noise, the voices, they had all faded into the background and for once it wasn't one of her tricks. She had no idea how long she stared at the letter in her hands, had no memory of taking it. She couldn’t recall how long it took for shaky fingers to pass over the seal, only that she refused to break it. Determination held it shut against her curiosity because she knew. She knew those ridges, characteristic of the seal maker she’d commissioned the personalized stationery piece from. She knew that color of the wax, pressed from a desert herb, red flecked with speckles of black. She knew it because it didn't belong here.

For the rest of the evening the letter had been tucked into her back pocket, a shape that crinkled, reminding her of its presence every time she leaned against the back counter of the bar. Barely large enough to stretch the fabric of the pocket it was shoved into, she wasn’t able to ignore it for long. It was just a folded piece of paper, and she didn’t even know what it said, but it felt very much like she was carrying around the evidence that would damn her for eternity. Entire exchanges of pleasantries were spent detached, wondering if somehow the Trickster had pulled even this ghost from the depths of her mind. Was this a haunting from her Fae captor? Or was this a ruse planted buy those who watched her? Who had delivered it, and why?

When finally she was back at Church House the letter sat on her coffee table as innocent as you please. Cianan had accompanied her and he was unable to ignore her preoccupation with the mail she refused to open. It's black hole weight drew the gold of her eyes in threatening to consume their light. For not the first time, she had to restrain herself from the urge to open it.

In the end she asked the Drow to keep the unopened message. To keep it away from her. It was a ploy, she decided, no doubt filled with taunting words meant to destabilize her further. They’d resurrected Shae’s dead, it was what the Collector’s people did to undermine the hearts of those that opposed them. To suck the fight from your limbs they would prop up those you once knew, those that were deceased. Making you fight their empty shell while trying not to collapse in despair as you did so. They wouldn’t have had the woman’s corpse to animate, though. The sun would have taken it when she’d left the woman’s motionless body in the ruins of her village. Someone with information and malicious intent must have found her remaining things. Absent a body, they would throw her voice on ink and paper. The words would become a rope she could hang herself with when emotion drove her to respond.

In the days that followed she would ask again and again for the letter back. Again and again to meet the Drow’s refusal. It was a ploy, she told herself. Moira was dead.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Consulting the Hunter, Excerpt, Part 1
The Inn, May 18th, 2017

Odd was a good way to describe what happened when their two individual sensibilities interacted. Between cautious editing, accidental offense, sarcastic defense, and unexplained, genuine -- and often hidden -- concern, the dichotomy of the machined, masked hunter and the arcane, tempest woman who refused to be prey was complex, to say the least.

"So what’ve you been up to? Haven't seen you around as late, thought maybe some fellow had come along and made you honest." Dirty little grin accompanied that jesting tone as Mach took another sip from his drink, free hand moving now to pat himself down in search of his smokes.

"Mach, I've always been honest. Think about it." Deflection, but she muscled past her own defense to offer him a bit more truth. "I was preoccupied with being chained to a wall." Why she told him that, she really couldn't say. Maybe just to get him off the topic of her love life. Wait. "Not by choice." Now it should be off the topic of her love life.

Finding that pack the man clipped a ciggy between his lips before offering it over to Shae while listening to her speak on truth and a little of what she'd been up to. The comment about the wall drew a sparkle to that lone cobalt eye if not for the quick addendum which muted such (though didn't exactly shut down that line of thought as, well, yeah... things could be quite complicated in the game of love.) "Why were you chained to a wall?" This asked simply as the man opted to hedge his bets and not place any sort of interpretation to such until he got a handle on just what 'preoccupation' meant in this matter.

His offering stalls her and she darts her fingers to the opening in the pack to pluck a cigarette free. Filter nestled between lips stained blue, half the drink, half the presence of one of those roving marks. Her empty hands cup around the end of the cigarette, a soft glow, and then the curl of smoke past her knuckles. "Because I was an idiot." Dry, that answer. Slow draw, slower exhale as her hands lowered. Leaning to the side to snare an ashtray and pull it close. "I lowered my guard and spent some months regretting it." She knew this was vague, and quite suddenly she decided she didn't give a ****. "Fae creature. Held me captive."

Candid little grin was offered as he tucked away the pack once she'd claimed her own prize. Tucking the tip of the cigarette into the gap between thumb and pointer of his prosthesis he’d wait a moment before puffing a few billows of ashen smoke from the now smoldering cigarette. Apparently his new and improved hand had a few bells and whistles to it! There was a thought to poke a little more fun at her and her love/hate relation with said ‘fun’ when he saw the woman's expression take on that regal stoicism which he knew her for.

It was an expression that had him hunching forward, elbows on knees as he listened to her as a padre in confession. That tone of self-deprecation, the dryness of the opinion that spoke of dissatisfaction peaked his interest and made him rather glad she continued on than tempt his stubborn. "Fae creatures..." The term rolled from his tongue thoughtfully, as though spoken while he thumbed through his mental encyclopedia of all things that went bump in the night. "What were you trying to do that got you caught and imprisoned by fae? I certainly don't imagine you to be one so easily detained."

He hunched forward and she didn't have to tilt her chin quite so far up to direct her responses to his face. "Creature," she corrected, "singular." There had only be the one faerie, after all. "I was looking for answers" -- wasn't she always -- "of a personal nature. I was trying to contact...I don't know who exactly, but someone. Family. He answered instead." As a hunter, he should know that even difficult prey could be lured with the right bait. "Not sure exactly what he wanted from me, but I suppose I should be--" She certainly couldn't bring herself to say thankful. Never. "Suppose I should be relieved he got so wrapped up in tormenting me that he never handed me over to the group he was working with."

Family. It was a good bait and could snare the most stalwart of the disciplined were they to pine for such a connection. Mach could relate, more than he'd care to admit which had him drowning said thought with another sip of his highly alcoholic beverage. Of course the word 'torment' warranted a subconscious flinch from the man, his own stoic veneer shifting a little in both anger on her behalf and anger all his own. Whatever was the cause for such it was fleeting as he shook it away in a billow of softly sighed smoke.

"I see." He finally breathed out soft yet tired as he reached out and gave her a light pat on the shoulder with his organic hand. "Well it's good you made it back. That's a hard spot to be in..." His words felt a little on edge as he spoke, felt a little too close to personal though he worked to hide such behind a smile. "... particularly when involving the Fae." Withdrawing his hand he took another sip of his drink as he fell into contemplation. "Were you able to get into contact with your family afterwards? Or seek any of the answers you were hoping for?" Mild words spoken almost in a tiptoe around the issue of what exactly had happened to her though it wasn't as though he was morbidly curious of the details of her detainment. No, he knew far too much about trauma than to haphazardly approach such usually. One of those few things the inappropriate man seemed not so cavalier about which was a rarity.

Telling of her recent experience had been much abridged, as he no doubt guessed. It was not a pleasant topic of conversation and she felt obliged to give him the opportunity to gently disembark wherever he saw fit. If she noticed hints of anger in his face she did not make mention of them, especially as they were banished soon after.

She didn't fill the silence between her words and his, nor did she draw back from his well meaning pat. There was a nod for the sentiment, although her eyes slid towards the mirror again for another brief visitation that seemed to be more about checking the door behind her than it did about consulting her own countenance. That sight line was spoken to before she turned her head back to him. "No. I wasn't able to get in contact with them. I haven't wanted to try again until I know that...that the business is fully done." Lingering trouble, that delay said. "I have more information, but I think I have more questions, too. It may not be safe to try and contact them. I want for guidance before I would try again."

Between drags he noted the subtle motion of the woman's head as her gaze averted, looking to the mirror in that familiar room sweep via reflection manner. It was a move along with her words that had the man's expression growing a touch serious, his fools smile sobering some as he looked to his drink. “Do you need assistance?”

This was offered up simply as his gaze now shifted back to her giving the woman an honest assessment. “Not sure what all I can provide but you might be surprised. If anything I'm at least a pretty decent hammer being so cavalier and stubborn.” There was a slight uptick in his lips as he made light of some previous banter between them though twisting it into a positive light. “But seriously, anything you need I got your back Shae. That's what friends are for after all. And I can honestly say it really rubs me the wrong way to think of a cutie like you being held captive and tormented.” Those last words, glib as they may have been with that compliment tossed in, were spoken with a touch of strain as he worked to throttle back his anger less it show.

Smoke curled, half forgotten, from the cigarette that hung at the corner of her lips. Were a sign to have escaped her composure, it might live in the corners of her eyes, sleep deprived and short a measure of their soft fire. It might be in the only just artificial image of her at rest and unconcerned in a familiar place, when he'd already made note of how she kept tabs on the space consciously. Perhaps the piece that damned was the absence of a russet shadow shedding the remains of a winter coat onto her lap. None of them openly screamed for acknowledgement in passing. She was curious delight and blue stained tongue, graphic print and lazily clipped hair.

At another time she might have bent his ear about the way he wouldn't let that observation go, but now the one brow just ticked up a fraction for 'cutie'. It was the context which kept that out of the line of commentary. The brow remained elevated, if only so she could consider him and his offer. "I may," she settled on at last. "But I am reluctant." Truth, again. "There is an incursion here from my world. I do not yet know the scope, only that the ones that have come shouldn't be allowed any sort of foothold. They are..." To say dangerous felt like it might be taken as an insult. Or dismissed, as it had been by others. "Their patterns of behavior inspire scorched earth responses for self preservation. They are fanatical, ruthless, and likely responsible for the larger share of the missing persons reports this year."

"My intentions," how careful those two words sounded, silk passed delicately over a serrated edge, "are not upstanding." Reports to the watch and incarceration? Meaningless. Absent context, she couldn't help wonder if exposing him to the reality of her wrathful response would be the thing that pushed their acquaintance from personal to his version of professional.

Watching the woman he noted that dullness, the same sort that hung on him though his was much more excusable as half the portals to his soul were masked by a swath of leather. Nursing his drink he considered all that was, and was not, said. "Dangerous, you mean." An addendum spoken as he noted how she traipsed about the word as an acrobat though he could venture why. Danger was something that felt like it was... numbed, in this land, something that was taken for granted.

But to Mach his entire life was about danger and being the line in the sand between that which was dangerous and that which was not. And so while he may have balked in the face of danger he could still appreciate it, respect it, and fear it as one of any sense should. "But the offer still stands, yeah? I... know the sort you speak of." That prosthetic hand curled into a fist which creaked a little with those words, that lone cobalt eye seeming to look at something beyond the bartop.

Releasing his fist his gaze shifted to the witch as she spoke of her intentions with these elements, the words subtle yet confessional in nature This gave him a moment's pause, his own expression evening out before he finally offered a soft shake of head. "Can I take it your judgment is at least partially based on evidence, on objective reason rather than passion?" He spoke plainly, not threatening or judging in any way. He may have been a hunter but it was based on writ, not some noble mission or whatnot. Mach was dangerous, but only in a self-serving fashion though whether that was better or not was up to the individual.

"Yes, dangerous." Small gratitude that he didn't make her justify the application of the word to the situation. The city was a port of wayward survivors and many had seen hardships the like of which few souls could endure. Perhaps that was some unspoken criteria for washing up here, that knife edge awareness of true risk or the jagged borders of loss. Perhaps it was not even the experience of danger firsthand, but the capacity to survive a sideways step across space and time without losing the core of who you were. In the face of such a shift, the definition of words like 'danger' might need editing.

"You do?" Not doubt to his testament, but a resurgence of the curiosity that tact had beaten back. One that couldn't help a lingering glance at his arm and face. He wasn't the first to offer his assistance, and he wasn't the first to receive her warning. "I discovered that my interactions are being watched. Some of those I interact with may also have been or may also be being observed as well. I suspect you capable of taking care of unwanted eyes on your activities, should it ever come to that, but if you do notice anything of that nature...please tell me."

The witch had little doubt if she couldn't resolve things in a timely manner that the tactics of her watchers might expand to collateral damage where possible. It served their ends and would put extreme pressure on her. These days she lived in an anxiety that looked like sudden radio silence from the people she knew and the possibility of a ransom note, or worse. The glass before her was empty and she wasn't even sure when it had happened. Ash had fallen onto the edge of the bar and she smeared it away with the side of her hand.

"These people started a war on my world." He wanted objectivity, but she couldn't claim it. Not after what she'd seen. Sure, logic was there, but so was the crawling sense of fury and horror that she forcefully wanted to bury. "And while they wouldn't make the same commitment of resources here, they would still take and twist innocent lives for their experimentation." The last word twisted despite her best attempts at showing him a rational, impersonal face. "That is to say, what they would find and create here would not only desecrate but would potentially be passed back to cause more death." Their fixation on her here was still half in shadow, and she lacked the information to understand why they had gone out of their way when they might have avoided her attention altogether, sewn chaos, and fortified. Of course they hadn't expected her liberation, but still.
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Shae Stormchild
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Consulting the Hunter, Excerpt, Part 2

At the woman's admission of the term the hunter couldn't help but nod sympathetically if not a little tensely. If Shae, a potentially strong mage if rumors were to be believed, considered a group's tactics to be dangerous than that held some merit. Particularly when 'scorched earth' was one of the ways to describe self-preservation tactics.

“Yeah, I do.” A hint offered as he confirmed her suspicions, the eye patch tapped with artificial fingers. “Maleficarum, no matter the source, tend to have... a particular viciousness when trying to achieve a goal, especially as a collective. I've dealt with such more than a few times in my career. In fact a cult to some lesser eldritch horror are who did this to me... took more than a few pounds of flesh too.” He smiled dimly letting the woman come to her own conclusions of his phrasing while sparing her the details lest morbid curiosity brought such up.

Falling silent after that admission he worked his cigarette mildly, listening as she spoke about being watched and how such could spread to others she interacted with. “Hey, hunter here, sorta my deal masking my movements and such, yeah?” Not that this stopped him from approaching the matter with humor as his lips curled slightly in a knowing grin before softening into a subtle smile. “But I will... so long as you swear not to go off half-cocked on such info. Learn by my warning, not by my example.”

Part of him wanted to reach out and comfort the woman though he held back less it come across as patronizing given his poisonously cultivated reputation. Instead he gave her a knowing nod as he ground out the remnants of his burnt down cigarette into an ashtray. “Well, sounds to me then that there is at least justice in what you're doing. Believe me, I... understand, being the line the sand, yeah? What it can mean and take. As they say, rhyme and reason are usually the first casualties of war...”

Moving now he scooted off the counter. “But... after hearing that I can most assuredly say that the offer for help – it still stands. These people sound like bad business, and that there is my business. Kicking pricks and thumping that which goes bump in the shadows so others don't have to.” Fishing out his pack of cigarettes once more he'd clip another between his lips, another offered to the woman. “I know you're apprehensive about accepting any sort of help but believe me, you don't want things snowballing to the point they blow up and really make a hell of things.”

This was stated frankly, without any airs or sly undertones added; his gaze as dead serious as it was knowing. “But the decision is yours in the end. Just... letting you know you got a hunter in your corner who's interested in not seeing this have to become my concern.” And now a sly little smile curled as he tried to sell this as though she were doing him a favor by letting him help.

Of the wicked women: Maleficarum. It was a possessive word she remembered from her study of her own 'kind' in the writings from Earth. Connected to something to do with a hammer. It was a passing thought for the moment, if that. She reflected on what she knew of others and what she felt was true of herself, but couldn't raise a note of argument on the possession of single-minded tendencies. Strong wills rarely lent themselves to anything other than solitary pursuits, but ah, when those wills might align. Her thoughts turned to a dark haired woman with clawed hands and a dull blade stabbed somewhere around her diaphragm.

One last drag before the singed filter in her fingers was snuffed with acrid smelling protest in the ashtray, her other hand drawing down to rest against her stomach out of habit. Cults. His phrasing for his experience with them and all that it implied took a tumble through her thoughts. "You're coping far better than I would." The final exhale of smoke tasted coppery past the sympathetic curve of her mouth. "Either that or your capacity for repression is on a level I am envious of." For all that her concern for those she knew was a series of needles beneath her skin, the witch had so far managed to plug the leaking dam on everything else. Partitioned off to look at later, examined with hazardous material caution when she could stand to do so. Relentlessly kicked back down when it wound up into her interactions unbidden. Morbid curiosity was there, but she wouldn't pry at his seals in case they were as slapdash as her own. Later, perhaps.

She'd seen no wicked women among the numbers of the stalkers or the faces that had lurked past the territory she'd been kept in. Necromantic alchemy, mercenary disregard. Such was the nature of the cell's composure. There were bound to be a few in that mix, for she wasn't at all deluded as to believe that all who shared her practices were simply misunderstood, but the face that had lured her into the trap was simply Fae beneath the illusions. "Do as I say, not as I do." Parroting his sentiment gently. Was it a promise? It didn't sound like one. She didn't give her word haphazardly. "Caution will be used." That, at least, was a guarantee.

The saying he offered puzzled her, and it showed in her face while she parsed through. "Mm." It was an underwhelming response, but it was contending with a few linguistic speed bumps. Recovery was made with an honest "Thank you," for his reinforced offer. "You're right, I don't want things to get worse."

That offer would be carefully considered. "Your number hasn't changed, has it?" It may have been some time, but she was loathe to delete contacts from her phone, and not just because it took her twice as long as another person to do so. She still had a water bottle that had gone warm in a puddle of its own condensation sitting near her elbow. She was reaching for it now to wash the dryness from her tongue.

Blue eye blue watched that movement, subtle as she shielded her stomach much the same way he did on occasion when around dragons larger than a small bus. It was a tell of trauma only verified by the words that came after. "Probably a little of both plus some drugs and a lot of alcohol." A weak willed smile was offered as he gave his drink a wiggle. "Plus a little help from what's afflicting me... all makes for a pretty decent way to deal with all the trauma's I've gotten." He was unsure just how much she remembered of his condition but he was sure that it was only thanks to how far gone he was to it’s degeneration that he hadn't lost his mind due to his own most recent traumatic experience.”I got some killer sleep aids too if you need any." Offered up casually without even a waggle of brow so as to imply something tawdry.

There was a mild snort as she parroted his words before he offered a soft sigh taking what semblances of agreement he could about her being cautious. Stuffing away the pack he lit his second smoke much like the first, a few drags taken as his expression shifted from mild to sheepish amusement to her question. "Er, no actually. My old cell phone took a few bullets for me so..." There was a thought. "Different incident." To clarify and, perhaps, cement the notion that danger seemed to follow him around like a lost puppy. Taking out a pad and pen he wrote out his new cell number for the woman, pushing it over. "So other than tracking down some of these... infiltrators... with extreme prejudice have you learned why they're coming to this land or what their goal is?"

The fingers that sketched across her lower ribs were used to feeling a taut surface framed by boning; they didn't find it. Rather than falter, they simply lingered, as if the span of her hand would fill the role of the missing garment. "It hasn't gotten any better." The question was more of a statement regarding his condition, murmured with a short inhale and a longer exhale. Some part of her had stepped aside from that knowledge of his deterioration, perhaps a nod to how hard he worked on his mask. More accurately, she had wanted to assume he had it in hand. That between him, his technology, Regi...that they'd gotten on fine.

Clearly, she'd been wrong. Detachment, that defense mechanism, slithered its way into her chest between one sip of water and the next. Sublimating guilt, bargaining with herself. She wouldn't show him any of it, not now. "Drugs and alcohol are certainly things I've found helpful. Still. I don't...want to sleep like that," referring to the sleep aids flatly at first, before managing to inject a little warmth back into her voice, "but I appreciate the offer." Awake is what she needed to be. Long, hard hours until what sleep she got was more akin to her body's forceful shut down than the fits and starts of a mind not at peace. It played hell with her everything else, certainly. Composure, silver razor tongue, inhibitions. All of it was offered in exchange for one more hour pushed. Unless his 'aids' could promise a similar sense of oblivion, she had no desire to flirt with her dreams.

She reached down to fish her phone from her pocket. It was the same one as before, but her rubberized casing looked like it had seen exposure to the elements. Fine cracks and bleached color. She needed to replace it, but hadn't made the time yet. The act of updating his contact gave her hands several minutes of activity to keep them from twitching after vice when she'd already decided to refrain.

"Better the cell phone than anything you're more attached to." Her thoughts wandered in this direction, between glances at his back, until he asked about the goal of the watchers that remained. It was a matter she had given considerable thought to. "I'm missing some piece of information." That much had become quite clear to her. "No matter what I did as a member of the defense, it shouldn't provoke the sort of reality crossing ire inferred by their coming here for my sake. It would be easy to say they came for resources, but not as easy to understand the level of focus on me and those I interact with."

Shae sucked at her teeth to avoid talking through every single theory she'd tossed at the proverbial wall in the hopes that something would stick. Eventually though, it all came back to the Trickster that had been her chief captor. "Something with the Fae. Something with this figure they think I'm related to. When I get my hands on one..." Trailing off, it was implied that she would be seeking answers where she could. Phone updated, she proceeded to send him a text message. Basic: This is Shae.

That somber statement had an amiable expression pulling autonomously upon rugged features, a breezy little smile curling. “A work in progress... wouldn't be dramatic if I didn't pull a rabbit out of the hat during the miracle mile, yeah?” He spoke in a bright, hopeful manner that did well to try and hide how hollow those words rang.

But that was neither here nor there as he focused on Shae and her stilted manner; the witch’s usual aloof composure riddled with cracks and tears. Mach was no stranger to the effects of forced sleep deprivation, to the avoidance of an idle mind racked with trauma and frustration. And so when the woman flatly rejected his offer he rolled with it, a shrug offered along with his usual chipper demeanor as he tried a different tack. “No prob, but my aids aren't all about just sleep. Dream suppressants, mind tranquilizers, soldier tabs that keeps a person in the deep, dreamless realm of restful slumber but still easily rousable...”

Each one of those were ticked off as though they were mere layman's concoctions, things anyone could or would make even though such was the furthest from the truth. “Or, you know, you could find one helluva a good lay. Endorphins and pleasured exhaustion work wonders to make bad sleep pleasant.”Of course he had to add that nugget of advice with brow wiggle and everything! Though in the current light of things it may have made one wonder whether there was some deeper meaning to the man's sleazy, lady-killer nature.

Observing the woman as she moved he couldn't help but smirk upon sight of her cellphone, the case looking like a grizzled veteran of an abusive relationship. “I think you could use a new case... maybe something bullet resistant like mine.” Breezy words as he took a drag off his cigarette, letting the smoke roll lazy from his nostrils. “But yeah, probably saved my life...” And now his endearing grin took on a softer touch at those words, something fond found in them. “... though the loss really has made for some harrowing re-connections when I returned to Rhy'Din. Thought I was going to die there a few times under the ire of folks pissed at my lack of communication!” And now he was chuckling at the ridiculousness of it all, his humor bright despite the solemn nature of their conversation.

There was much to consider given what had been shared but he was sure Shae had spent countless hours already chasing her own tail trying to elucidate answer from the fragments she had gathered. He knew the hell of that process well even if he professed himself to being an idiot more often than not. “So you figure whoever 'The Fae' was supposed to... collect... you for is what's drawing the ire of those whom you wage war? You don't think 'The Fae' and those others are in collusion and maybe you're somehow special or integral in some way you don't yet understand?”

“How about a lead on any more 'Fae?'” Another idle question though it felt much more loaded than he likely gave it credit for. This was Mach after all, a man prone to sticking his nose into others business especially if he wasn't invited to. Then again maybe he was just making conversation as he drew out his phone which buzzed softly, a glance to the simple message warranting a swift reply of.... emoji? Melon, melon, cherry, peach, eggplant, hazelnut, hazelnut, lol, grimace, hand, hand, sweat drop, cheesy grin... yeah, this was most certainly a very Mach reply.

His attempts at gallows optimism were appreciated. If she were being honest with herself, she didn't find the sentiment all that reassuring, mainly because he was wearing such an uncanny version of his public mask when he said it. He wanted to pretend, and in that moment her tired heart wanted to let him. So she let him. She didn't give him her usual arched brow skepticism or needle him with a question. Fox would have been proud.

Perversely, it had always been that mask of his that made her want to discard her own when she spoke to him. If only to make her less of a hypocrite whenever she pointed it out to him. She wore her own, often. Shaped differently for the moment it lived in, but always with calm. Always with an approachable smile. Always with a side-step. Her hand rose now to scratch a thumbnail across her lower lip, considering his added detail about his chemical aids. "The last one. That one sounds useful. But what are the side effects? Short term, prolonged use?" She'd never yet met a drug that didn't have some. There was always a trade-off somewhere.

"I found a good lay, and it did help. But..." One shoulder rose and fell. It was matter of fact in the face of his wiggling brows. It was a different sort of drug. A selfish, undefined one that would have its own side effects, whenever she bothered to address them. "I don't have the time or desire to start screening strangers or acquaintances for regular doses, but I'll admit that it's a gentler exhaustion than the one I usually end up with."

Water met her lips again as her gaze bounced off the mirror between words. Her cell phone had been set down on the counter once she'd finished her simple message. His commentary on her case prompted a glance down at the cracked rubber. "I didn't intend to leave it to the elements for as long as it was. Frankly, I'm lucky the phone was waterproof." The poor device had spent months in the tall grass on the back of her property until Fox had found it for her.

"I suppose I'm also lucky that no one has yet tried to take my head off for the months their calls were going to the ghosts rather than me. In fairness, I had withdrawn for some months prior, so they were probably used to it before it really was an issue." The admission was more stream of consciousness than organized thought, and she blinked to focus when he began to talk about the Fae. "Oh, no. I know they were working together. What I don't know is why. My watchers had some sort of arrangement with the creature that took me. I don't think he intended to turn me over to them, though." Teeth chewed at the inside of her cheek.

"I don't have a lead on any more Fae from my world. I didn't know any of them were here. I mean, they all disappeared from the world I came from before I was born. No one knows, or knew, where they went. If they came here, well, that Trickster was the first to make himself known to me." Slowly she inhaled, the breath an excuse to stretch her shoulders out of their hunched lean. Her phone vibrated and she glanced at the string of food shaped icons that popped up as a preview on her lock screen. She didn't unlock it to see the rest. "Does a translation come with that set of hieroglyphics or is it just nonsense?"
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Shae Stormchild
Old Wyrm
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 12:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Consulting the Hunter, Excerpt, Final

It was sort of telling just how worn the woman was feeling that she didn't even attempt to call *** to his friendly and optimistic manner that totally dodged the point. Rather than question this he simply ran with it, nodding mildly as her interest peaked. “The soldiers sleep tab? Yeah, it's got some nasty side effects but it's useful, especially during war when they were intended to be used.”

Taking a drag off his cigarette he pondered on that product for a bit, racking the annals of his knowledge regarding potions and apothecary. “They're meant for short term use, no more than three days in a row before they start causing irritability and paranoia... visual disturbances, auditory hallucinations, that sorts. But if you space them every other day or so you should be able to take them without too much long term problems... no worse for you than say corticosteroids – slower healing, decreased immune response, increased chance of injury. That said they're a crutch to recovery, not a solution.” That last bit felt a touch bitter on his tongue which stayed him from the last part of that canned warning regarding seeking psychiatric help. “I can leave a sample in your mailbox later, don't exactly carry such around as they disapprove of me sleeping on the job.”

And there was that humor of his even if it felt a bit stiff given the headiness of their conversation. Then again the somber admission that the woman made about his other suggestion struck a funny chord with the man as he tried to stifle a chuckle. “Screening... doses... how clinical.” Hiding his humor behind a literal smokescreen from his cigarette he worked on his composure as the talk turned back to that of her captor and her watchers. “Could you describe what one of these Fae look like? Or your watchers? If there's a connection between them then maybe trying to get a bead on those who seek you might well lead to some info on tracking down another Fae.” Of course her rather drab reaction to the message he sent back in return did warrant an ever so slight uptick of his lips from that serious expression that held. “It's translation is crude and it's nonsense to boot so yeah, I wouldn't worry about it.” A silly little shrug offered to that as he worried over the filter of his cigarette.

The side effects he listed, both short term and long, were in line with what she suspected they would be. "I knew a cleric who made something similar once." Likely not as advanced, not as potent as he might be able to get his hands on. The chemistry he might know in passing was probably enough to have made him a passable alchemist on her world. Now potions, ah, those might rival, but even those had their drawbacks, their addictions. "I'd rather you hand them off to me directly, honestly. My mail has already been tampered with at least once." Tight frown and a cut of her gaze towards the cubbies in question. They just weren't all that secure.

His muffled chuckling drew her back, sipping from the bottle resting in the fence of her fingers. "We were talking about drugs, and you have only yourself to blame for bringing up endorphins." The alchemists of her world might linger in partial ignorance, but the woman had never met a book she didn't like. Yes, even the law books. If only to know the ways to get around them in certain situations. "Distraction," or reckless abandon, "is also a kind of drug."

She held off on providing more detail and idly slid her phone closer to unlock it and look at the message he'd sent. It was a puzzle now, and she squinted at it until she understood. Then she picked it up and began tapping at the menus. It kept her hands busy. "I don't think the Fae who held me ever wore his own face. He was fond of showing me faces I knew instead. Illusions, tricks." Cruel mockery. "So he looked like a lot of people." Piecemeal answer could be because of her menu scrolling or because she was gathering words. "Yes...I know a few faces of the watchers, they aren't Fae. Most of them are human." One or two faces, in particular, she would rather not remember. "Their connection was whatever deal they had, which is now in shambles. It's the humans that follow me. I need to deal with them first before I go chasing another faerie. One enemy at a time." At least, she hoped.

Text to Mach: <dog><house>, <eggplant><right arrow><cactus>

There was a note of the way she eyed her mailbox, the notion disgusting him enough to tarnish that amiable smile of his. "Sure, sure, I can message you when I have everything together." Patience was a virtue for hunters too and it paid off as finally she began to speak while working to keep her hands occupied. He listened to what she had to say, a nod given here and there as he jotted mental notes. Face changers were a hard lot to be sure but certainly not outside his realm of investigation, particularly not with some of the... new.... connections he'd forged.

"So do you have many leads on those that pursue you? A point of origin or base of operation? Particular habits or identifiers? Sort of sounds like you've just been taking them down if they get too close without really much headway in cutting the problem off at the source." A mild observation formulated on incomplete data; a necessary quirk being a hunter that could be both good and bad.

"Mm," mouth closing in a hum of consideration. Her smile had disappeared at some point. "I'm putting things together to investigate how they have been surveilling me and my friends. That is to say, I am certain I know the means, I just need to confirm it. To get my hands on a piece of it so I can, with luck, use it to find where they are operating from. The cave in the Fae's territory where they were outpost was fire bombed into oblivion, but they have operated in multiple cells before, and the sense of pressure hasn't abated."

"Hmm..." Chewing over what was offered the hunters thoughts turned inwards as he autonomously nursed his drink and cigarette. After a long pause he finally turned his blue eye blue gaze to the woman somberly. "As much as you may not want to, I think your going to have to accept some help on this. Cause if they're as cautious as you make them out to be and that keen of surveillance it'll be very, very hard to catch them with their pants down and get the drop on them, luck or no."

Taking one last drag from his cigarette he'd pluck this dead soldier from his lips and grind it out next to the other. "At least that's my read of the situation. A little unsolicited advice as I'm sure you have a great shortage in that." His tone was serious but the smile helped lighten the gravity of his words along with the humorous twist at the end. Lifting his glass he'd polish off the rest of that alcohol, a refreshed sigh escaping as the empty vessel dropped from his lips.


"You're right." Don't faint Mach, rare as it may be for a woman to say those words to him, let alone Shae, he was not hallucinating them. "My first attempt to look into it already suffered from ambush tactics. Which is why I intend to take on a few extra bodies for this attempt and work in a proper measure of misdirection, if I can. If I manage to get my hands on what I'm after, the next step will no doubt become a broader engagement based on the intel it provides me."

The man didn't look nearly as pleased with himself as one would have assumed. It was rare for Shae, or anyone for that matter, to admit he was right about something; but Mach had already ventured Shae had or would invariably have come to that same conclusion. It was the simple economics of the hunt after all. "You're part of the diversion, yes?" A mild inquiry as, well, the woman had certainly upended a number of his preconceived notions about her tonight. It seemed only prudent to assume nothing and to reassess his judgements, for better or worse.

"I'll be setting up the diversion." Another bounce of her attention off the back mirror, this time in the direction of a window at the front of the common room. It was a distinction. "It should maintain itself without my constant presence. And then I'll be scouting with the others." Her phone was shifted from the top of the bar to her pocket. The forward slide of her hips continued with a twist that brought her from the stool to her feet. The empty bottle was snared and she aimed her steps towards the corner of the bar where the waste bins were.

"Are you so sure of that?" His tone was mild as he made that prompt, hands moving to draw out a few bills to feed to the till snake. "You are their primary target and the one whom they're willing to go after personal acquaintances to get to, I imagine that means they keep closest tabs on you. This would have to be one hell of a diversion where your participation in the OP doesn't potentially compromise it." He spoke in a frank, almost blunt manner that was perhaps a little refreshing compared to the usual twisting manner which he skipped about conversations. Seemed, despite his best attempts to be anything but, the man could be disciplined and military when the situation or conversation necessitated such.

His tone approaches something serious and it catches her at the corner of the bar, making her stand still for her reply. "Completely sure? No, of course not. There's an informational disadvantage. I do know a few things. I know I've pulled off a similar diversion before. I know that I need to act for a change rather than just react. I know that I trust the people I will be asking along to be able to make sound judgments in the event of a rapidly changing scenario." The pad of her thumb ran a back and forth line over the nail tips of her right hand. "There are always risks, but at least I should have the element of surprise if they discover that what they've been watching isn't real."

He could see the tension in the woman as she justified the acceptable risks and the redundancy inbuilt to try and account for the unexpected. That didn't mean he knew any details but then again he wasn't exactly 'need to know' and it was sound tactics to limit how many extraneous individuals knew of a plan. Loose lips sinks ships and all though the euphemism that Mach was more concerned over was 'no plan of action ever survived contact with the enemy.'

But she seemed to be trying to account for such at least which was the best anyone could do. Rather than needle her with unwanted advice or questions that could shake her resolution, he'd just nod solemnly and accept that she had a handle of things. It was a lot harder thing to do than one might expect, but then Mach was by his nature a meddler. And while he couldn't say Shae and he had a very close or deep relation it still deeply unsettled him that the witch was in trouble and he could do nothing but support them with a cheery grin and thumbs up. Both of which he was most certainly up for giving as he pulled on the leather gloves pulled from his pocket.

"Well you kick their teeth in and get what you need, yeah? But be safe Shae, or as safe as you can given circumstances. And remember, if a situation arises that you need a little more asshole I'm just a ring away." A subtle reminder of what he swore to her before indicated by a motion to where her phone had been vanished on her person. "Headed out?"

No plan ever did survive that first contact, but you did what you could. She was a far cry from her old battle tactics, a year of peace and unfavorable terrain were their own sort of barricades. Her mind was another, but they wouldn't wait, so she couldn't either. Glad that he didn't feel the need to try and wheedle out the details, she shook her head to clear it of the visions that had gathered there. "That's the plan!" As if the problem could be solved in one blow where the hero takes the day.

"I'm short a good deal of intelligence to be able to plan an actual, functional assault. However, if that day comes in the near future, I'll keep you in mind for the raid." Frankly, she'd be happy for the assistance. One more set of hands pulling out the rot. One more set of eyes making sure nothing escaped. His casual inquiry stumped her for a second. Not a misunderstanding, but more like she hadn't put proper thought to her distancing herself from the bar stool. "Yeah, I guess I am." With a glance to the door and a distracted murmur. Something about a library.

Mach well understood how peace could dull ones fangs. Adversity was needed to temper and hone one's instincts and the lack of such could leave one under-prepared for the adversities life could throw at them. As one molded in the crucible of conflict himself he knew these things well and had had more hard knock personal experiences with such concepts as of late than he cared to think on.

Catching the rather bright and optimistic tone of that chirped response the man couldn’t exactly help the snort that escaped him, his own brand of calling '***' though he'd at least be tactful enough not to say anything more. Conning the con man wasn't an easy task and Mach was well acquainted with heroic bravado. Moving for the break in the bartop himself he nodded to the woman's realization of what she was doing. "Care for some company on the way?" Asked mildly , unassuming. He knew the woman was trying to put distance between herself and her contacts but it never did hurt to ask (well, usually didn't anyway.)

A polite refusal for the offer rose to her lips but didn't escape them. The knee jerk reply was swallowed that she might consider a proper one. Her attention strayed from the door to regard him thoughtfully. Their conversation, her situation, her assessment of him, it all weighed on some invisible scale behind her eyes. It all was slotted into a complex formula that derived and discarded. "Actually," in case he'd caught any part of the suppressed 'no' before she'd shifted her gaze, "I would appreciate that. That is, if you don't have any pressing place to be." Wholly selfish, as many of her recent impulses were.

Completely expecting a ‘no thank you’ the man was a little shocked by the yes though he worked not to let such surprise show on his face as he moved past, organic arm crooked and offered to the woman. "Me with a pressing place to be? What sort of scallywag and scoundrel do you take me for to have such polite business as to be shackled to some sort of schedule?"

His words were light hearted and jesting, a way to try and alleviate any concern that she somehow was being a bother even if it was true that the hunter had actually been busy as of late; literally throwing himself at his work as it were.. "Besides, it'd be a right shame to waste such good company." And with this he flashed her one of his winning smiles, the urge to add the punchline resisted. "Shall we?" Whether she took the offered arm or not he'd let her set the pace though he was quick to get the door for her showing off some more of that odd gentlemanly behavior of his that could pop up from time to time.

The offer of his arm was met with a raised brow and an amused expression that she couldn't quite subdue. "You don't need a schedule to be inundated with things to do." Nevermind that the both of them had just spent a passing drink and conversation without any real rush. Perhaps for him, like it had been for her, it was a moment of stillness taken for the sake of it. She didn't take his arm, but she had considered it, also for the sake of it. Between that and the door he was playing at courtly manners. Last year's temporary title aside, she would never be royal. Not in any sense that needed to stand on ceremony. If she were to lead it would be to lead the way out the door. And so she did.
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